The Spanish Era: The un-deserved criticism of Txiki Begiristain

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Manchester City Director of Football Txiki Begiristain has been at the receiving end of much criticism from City fans for his handling of transfer dealings during his tenure at the club. The former Barcelona executive arrived at Manchester in September 2012 and had faced a difficult task in charge of footballing matters during that time.

Since the summer of 2011, the majority of fans supporting Manchester City have been disappointed with the club’s transfer dealings after the club’s transfer process stagnated after three years of massive spending. When Begiristain and Soriano arrived in Manchester, City’s hierarchy was in a chaotic process after the departure of Garry Cook (Chief Executive Officer) in such controversial circumstances.

In his place for the summer of 2012 was Brian Marwood whose responsibility was to strengthen Roberto Mancini’s squad after a title winning season the year previously. Targets such as Robin Van Persie, Danielle De Rossi, and Eden Hazard were all earmarked by the club as they aimed to take the next step both domestically and in European competition.

All three targets failed to materialize with Van Persie joining bitter rivals United, Hazard opting for recently crowned Champions League winners Chelsea and De Rossi chose to stay at his home-town club and remain a loyal servant to AS Roma. Instead, City managed to panic buy and sign Majita Nastasic, Maicon, Richard Wright and Javi Garcia. Three of who left the club within eighteen months and Wright failed to register a single appearance for City during his four-year stay.

Now with the club in a stagnated process, Begiristain’s first task was to implement his policy within the organization. Fan-favourite Roberto Mancini was not seen as the man to take City to the next level and his poor boardroom relations resulted in him being dismissed one year to the day after City’s historic Premier League title success.

Both Begiristain and Soriano received a significant amount of criticism for their roles in his sacking, as it was reported before City’s F.A. Cup final clash with Wigan in May 2013 that Mancini was to be sacked and replaced by Chilean Manuel Pellegrini. Despite the negativity from the fans, Begiristain felt the decision to replace Mancini was pivotal to what he hoped to achieve at Manchester City.

Pellegrini’s appointment was made swiftly after Mancini’s sacking. The club had a vision, and despite everyone waiting for failure, Begiristain stuck with his principals that made him such a success with Barcelona at the turn of the century. He intended to back Pellegrini and the two identified key players that would take City far beyond the group stages of the Champions League – a position they had failed at during their two seasons in the competition.

Just a few short weeks after Pellegrini’s appointment, players such as Carlos Tevez, Gareth Barry, and Maicon all departed the club as they prepared for a new era and attempted to remove all the “trouble-makers” from the club. Replacing the outgoing stars were Jesus Navas, Fernandinho, Stefan Jovetic and Alvaro Negredo. Navas was a highly sought after winger in Spain, and despite failing to live up to the hype fans wished to see, Begiristain signed the World-Cup winner for £14.9million fending off competition from Real Madrid. Regardless of whether Navas’ City career has been a success story or not, Begiristain signed a player sought after by the world’s biggest club after almost a decade of great displays in Spain for Sevilla. His performances since can not see blame put at the feet of Mr. Begiristain.

Unlike Navas, Fernandinho has proven to be worth his weight in gold while only for personal issues affecting his life, Alvaro Negredo would have become a greater success story and not been sold on a year later. Despite Negredo’s short career in Manchester, fans fail to remember that Negredo was sold by City for a £10million profit following his £15million move in 2013.

By the end of the season, City had won a domestic double winning both the Capital One Cup and the Premier League while the club also progressed beyond the group stages of the Champions League. The results were far exceeding expectations of the modern media and fans alike – the same ones who slated Txiki’s decision to dismiss Roberto Mancini. Begiristain’s plans had fallen into place, but a snag was set to impose a substantial restriction on the proposed direction the club wanted to take. In March 2014 it was announced that City would be imposed with strict summer transfer limit following a breach of UEFA’s Financial Fair Play regulations. This had meant City had spent beyond what they earned which was against UEFA ruling at the time as they attempted to impose a strict stance upon “money-bag” club’s free-spending.

The imposed penalties meant that the club was not allowed to spend more than £49million of net sales. Certainly not the fault of Txiki Begiristain as he attempted to lure players such as Alexis Sanchez to the club but the Chilean’s wage demands forced City to pull out of a potential deal. Angel Di Maria was wanted by City also following an impressive season once again, but Real Madrid’s asking price meant City could not compete due to UEFA’s restrictions and also the need to strengthen in more critical areas.

The Central defence had been an issue for City during the 2013/2014 season. Vincent Kompany’s niggling injuries, Majita Nastasic’s lack of performances and Martin Demichelis’ settling in period meant City were increasingly weak in central defence. Porto’s highly-rated French defender Eliaquim Mangala was signed by the club for £41.9million in a move that seen City capture one of Europe’s most sought-after defenders. Mangala may not have proven his worth, but at the time the deal seemed right for City as they hoped the longevity of a 23-year-old top class defender would show value for money.

Team-mate Fernando was also signed from FC Porto as City attempted to progress further once again in the Champions League. It may have taken time for Fernando to settle in at Manchester but he’s undoubtedly proving to be a valuable squad member like hoped. Frank Lampard and Bacary Sagna were signed costing the club nothing and La Liga goalkeeper of the year, Willy Caballero, joined City for £4.5million. All signing’s despite their successes or not all could be argued to have been signed for a valid reason. Restrictions during the season affected City’s planned progression by luring top targets and ultimately forced Begiristain’s hand to settle for finding the value for his money elsewhere. In the meantime, £23million was re-couped by Begiristain as he sold both Jack Rodwell and Javi Garcia to Sunderland and Zenit respectively when neither player was good enough for the standard City set themselves. Another trick which so often goes unmentioned.

Half-way through the 2014/2015 season as City hoped to catch Chelsea at the top of the table, Manuel Pellegrini personally requested that Begiristain put all his attempts into signing Swansea City striker Wilfried Bony. The Spaniard delivered and as Bony was on such a run of form, City were forced to pay a staggering £28million for a forward who hasn’t looked a fraction of his worth. Is it unfair to blame Begiristain for the purchase of Bony when the appointed first-team manager personally asked him to sign the Ivorian when the club had no plans to strengthen their attacking options?

The season-ending disappointingly much to Begiristain’s annoyance. No trophies and being knocked out by Barcelona in the last 16 of the Champions League once again did not sit well with the board and owners. The club knew the time was right to start investing heavily now the shackles of FFP had been lifted. A staggering £149.3million was spent on Bundesliga player of the year Kevin De Bruyne, La Liga defender of the year Nicolas Otamendi, Raheem Sterling and Fabian Delph also as the club were keen to keep an English core group of players. Fulham wonder-kid Patrick Roberts was also signed as Begiristain prepared for the club’s next generation.

Not only did Begirstain spend brilliantly, but he also managed to recoup reasonable transfer fees for players who had no future at the club. £24.8million was brought in by the sales of Scott Sinclair, Dedyrck Boyata, Majita Nastasic, Marcos Lopes and Karim Rekik. None of whom had managed a game for the club in over a year meant the club signed Otamendi for as good as nothing following brilliant sales.

Begiristain also refused to give into the demands of James Milner by allowing the English midfielder to depart on a free transfer after presenting him with two lucrative contracts offers to extend his five-year stay at the club. Milner refused, and Begiristain said goodbye as he planned for the future with De Bruyne who is truly an upgrade on Milner. The disappointing season that soon developed was not the wrong-doing of Begiristain. It was solely down to the manager. Players were signed and failed to live up to their promise or some of the club’s top stars failed to produce when it mattered.

The biggest criticism I can have of Begiristain is the fact City never sought a marquee signing when Pellegrini’s arrival was confirmed in 2013. However, City’s purchases of players like Caballero and Navas can not be blamed on him. It’s like signing Arda Turan who has spent years impressing in Spain only for the Turkish winger being unable to adapt the same style and pace to his game he once showed in Spain.

People failed to realize and often look beyond the fact that without Begiristain it’s unlikely City would have been able to attract Pep Guardiola to the club. Begirstain is one of the games great visionary’s in the Director of Football role and looks far beyond the next season as so many fails to do. His policy this summer of attracting youth players and adding them to an already aging squad puts City in a good stance for the next few season’s as they prepare for their journey under Guardiola – which has been Txiki and Ferran’s project from day one.

 

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