What a difference six years make: in the case of Manchester City, embarrassing defeats to mediocre opposition compared to their present-day trophy-winning habits.
When Sven-Goran Eriksson’s City were thrashed 8-1 at Middlesbrough on the final day of the 2007-08 season, concluding the club’s 32nd straight season without a major trophy, few could have predicted that less than six years later they would be celebrating their third major triumph in three years.
The shellacking by Boro was Eriksson’s final game in charge at Eastlands, as Mark Hughes was brought in by Thaksin Shinawatra to replace him.
Soon Shinawatra was also on his way out, as the Abu Dhabi United Group took charge and proceeded to splash the cash, with over £100million spent on players during the 2008-09 season.
The team, unsurprisingly, was soon unrecognisable from the one that played that day on Teeside and today not a single player from the starting 11 remains at the club.
With City facing arguably their biggest game of the season so far tomorrow evening in Barcelona, Mancunian Matters takes a look at those 11 and where they are today:
Goalkeeper: Andreas Isaksson
This was the Swedish keeper’s last game for City as he departed during the close-season to PSV Eindhoven for an undisclosed fee. He made only six first team appearances in his final City season, losing his place to an up-and-coming Joe Hart. The Swedish international went on to make 123 league appearances for PSV, winning the Dutch Cup in 2012. Now 32, he is currently turning out for Kasimpaşa in Turkey.
Right back: Sun Jihai
Chinese full-back Sun Jihai was another who left the Blues that summer as Hughes rang the changes. Jihai completed one season in the second-tier at Sheffield United before being loaned out to United’s affiliate club in the Chinese Super League, Chengdu Blades. The former China international moved onto Guizhou Renhe in 2010, where he has remained ever since, helping them gain their first ever Asian Champions League berth last season.
Centre back: Vedran Corluka
This was Corluka’s first and only full season at the club, before moving to Tottenham Hotspur for around £8.5million in August 2008. The defender, who is set to appear at the 2014 World Cup for Croatia, moved on loan to Bayer Leverkusen in January 2012. He is now playing under his former international boss, Slaven Bilic, at Lokomotiv Moscow.
Centre back: Richard Dunne
The uncompromising centre-half was a City stalwart for the best part of a decade, winning the club’s Player of the Year of the year award four years in a row between 2005 and 2008. However, the big-money acquisition of Joleon Lescott at the beginning of the 2009-10 season saw Dunne deemed surplus to requirements, with then chief executive Gary Cook famously quipping “Richard Dunne doesn’t roll off the tongue in Beijing.” The Irish international moved to Martin O’Neill’s Aston Villa for £6million and is now playing for Championship promotion-chasers QPR.
Left back: Michael Ball
Perhaps most remembered by City fans for a derby-day stamp on Cristiano Ronaldo’s stomach, Ball left City when his contract expired in 2009. He eventually signed for Leicester in 2011 but played only three games before retiring at the end of that season. Now turning out for a pub team on his native Merseyside.
Central midfield: Gelson Fernandes
Another youngster to lose his place in the City team to a new wave of signings, Fernandes moved to Saint Etienne for £2million in July 2009. The Swiss midfielder has since played for five clubs, including Leicester City, and now turns out for Bundesliga side Freiburg. He is set to appear for Switzerland at Brazil 2014 and will be hoping to recreate his heroics of the 2010 tournament where he scored the winner in Switzerland’s group stage victory over Spain.
Central midfield: Stephen Ireland
The Irish international was named City’s player of the year after a brilliant 2008-09 campaign, but despite a bright start to the next season he was unable to maintain that form and lost his starting-spot in the face of competition from Nigel De Jong, Gareth Barry and Patrick Vieira. Ireland joined Aston Villa in 2010, firing a parting shot at boss Roberto Mancini with the declaration that he was as good as any of the midfielders the Italian had signed to replace him. His form at Villa, however, did not live up to this claim and he moved last summer to rejoin Mark Hughes at Stoke City.
Right wing: Martin Petrov
Brought in from Atletico Madrid, the Bulgaria international scored some spectacular goals for City, but was hampered by several injuries during his three seasons at Eastlands. He left for Bolton Wanderers on a free transfer in 2010, where he spent three seasons before moving to Espanyol. Petrov was recently in the local news after he turned out for Manchester amateurs Chorlton Torpedo in their derby against Spartak Brushes, scoring the winner for the Saturday league side. Now back in Bulgaria playing for CSKA Sofia.
Left wing: Javier Garrido
A £1.5million signing from Real Sociedad in August 2007, Garrido started 27 league games for City that season, playing mostly at left back. However, Wayne Bridge’s January 2009 arrival pushed the Spaniard down the pecking order and he moved to Lazio in 2010, days after Aleksander Kolarov’s move the other way. Currently struggling to retain a starting berth at Premier League club Norwich City.
Striker: Darius Vassell
The former England forward spent four seasons at Eastlands, making more than 100 appearances. Vassell was a key part of Eriksson’s team. The following season, however, saw him fall out of favour, making just 15 appearances, the last of which came in a 3-0 FA Cup defeat by Nottingham Forest. He moved onto Turkish side Ankaragucu at the end of that season, before moving back to Leicester City. Injury put paid to his Foxes career in 2012 and he is currently searching for a new club.
Striker: Benjani Mwaruwari
Following his arrival from Portsmouth Benjani immediately endeared himself to City fans with the second and decisive goal in a 2-1 derby win at Old Trafford on his debut. But the Zimbabwean’s City career never lived up to this early promise and he was pushed down the pecking order the following season by the arrival of Robinho and Craig Bellamy. Benjani spent time on loan at Sunderland before signing for Blackburn Rovers and then returning to his former club Portsmouth in August 2011. Now playing in South Africa for Wits University.
Manager: Sven-Goran Eriksson
The former England manager was a popular character amongst the City faithful, but that was not enough to save him when chairman Shinawatra wielded the axe at the end of the 2007-08 season. City had occupied third place in November, but a poor second half of the season saw them finish ninth. More than 14,000 fans signed a petition demanding he keep his job but it was to no avail. The Swede moved to become Mexico manager but was fired after some poor results and returned to England to become Notts County director of football as part of the ill-fated Munto Finance venture. Next up for Eriksson was a job with the Ivory Coast before taking charge of Leicester City. He is currently manager of Chinese Super League club Guangzhou R&F, earning a reported £2million per year.
Image courtesy of BBC via YouTube, videos courtesy of Manchester City/Sky Sports/Torpedo Chorlton/oasisblues, with thanks.