LONDON - Money talks and in football it seldom lets anything else get a word in edgeways. For Manchester City, however, the power of the chequebook is being challenged by other more profound considerations.
While the approach of the summer transfer deadline has produced the usual feverish activity in the market amid much speculation about the likely comings and goings, the one feature that stands out is the lengthening list of players not wanting to enjoy the riches on offer at the Etihad Stadium.
This week Daniele De Rossi, the gifted Roma midfielder long sought after by Roberto Mancini, became the latest to turn City down. Mancini wanted Robin van Persie but he opted for Manchester United.
Lille’s Eden Hazard was another target but the Belgian joined Chelsea where he is already shaping up as the reincarnation of Gianfranco Zola.
Daniel Agger might be in City’s squad now had Liverpool been prepared to lower an asking price of £27m for the defender which the Premier League champions were not prepared to meet.
While all these players would have benefited financially from joining Manchester City it seems the need to play regular first-team football persuaded them to go elsewhere or, in De Rossi’s case, stay put.
Almost certainly Van Persie will start more matches for Manchester United this season than he would have done had he signed for City, even with Sergio Agüero now out of action for a few weeks.
Mancini has complained about his club’s lack of transfer activity this summer and as City begin to defend their Premier League title while striving to make significant progress in the Champions League his desire to strengthen the squad is natural, Uefa’s imminent restraint on extravagant spending notwithstanding.
Yet the reluctance of some leading players to enter an environment which would find them starting more than a few games on the substitutes bench is understandable.
Footballers want to play football whether it is in a public park on a Sunday morning or to the roars of the crowd in the Premier League.
A player given the opportunity of signing for Manchester City, Manchester United or Chelsea has to weigh the chance of making a substantial sum of money with the long-term effect on his playing career. Too many big signings have gone broody on the bench for this to be overlooked.
Take Dimitar Berbatov, and presumably United hope that someone will before next week’s transfer deadline. Four years ago Sir Alex Ferguson signed the Bulgarian stroller from Tottenham for £30.75m.
Manchester City were hovering and the word was that Ferguson smuggled him into Old Trafford hidden in the back of his car. Apocryphal perhaps but it added a nice touch of intrigue to the story.
Berbatov’s time at Old Trafford, however, can hardly be rated a success. While his thoughtful style and subtle skills have produced some memorable moments he has seldom looked an integral part of a team whose energetic style leaves little room for Berbatov’s brand of quiet counterpoint.
Last season he made only a dozen appearances in the Premier League but still scored seven goals, two of them from penalties. It has all seemed a bit of a waste.
The same day in 2008 that Berbatov joined United, Abu Dhabi bought Manchester City and immediately pipped Chelsea for Robinho, who arrived from Real Madrid for £32.5m.
The Brazilian seemed a mite confused. “Chelsea made a great proposal and I accepted,” he told reporters. “You mean Manchester, right?” “Yeah, Manchester, sorry!”
That season Robinho was City’s leading scorer with 14 goals. The following season he was injured for three months and scored once (against Scunthorpe in the FA Cup) before returning to his home club, Santos, on a six-month loan. Eventually he joined Milan.
Given their time over again both Berbatov and Robinho might have done things differently. In each case the money turned out to be better than the move.
Rather like Andy Carroll, who cost Liverpool £35m when Kenny Dalglish signed him from Newcastle at the beginning of 2011 but last weekend was kept on the bench by Brendan Rodgers until the last 11 minutes of the 3-0 defeat at West Bromwich Albion.
The day Carroll moved to Anfield Liverpool sold Fernando Torres to Chelsea for £50m. Torres may yet be a success and the fact Hazard, unlike Robinho, preferred Stamford Bridge to the Etihad could help make this happen.