When Robinho plonked onto British shores five summers ago, an air of ‘here we go again’ gushed through the football fraternity.
A historic English club, in a lighter shade of blue, preyed upon by a billionaire drenched in oil who had too much money and knew exactly what to do with it.
That Brazilian is just the start, they said. Watch them drive the nail into the fair play values our Premier League is based on.
Except the game was rigged from the beginning. Manchester United’s sudden surge of success happily coincided with hordes of international spectators – in the advent of Sky – to create a money-rich monolith.
In smaller magnitude Arsenal also capitalised on the financial fireworks; the Gunners acquired followers in their millions who will scream Henry, Vieira and co forever.
However ingenious Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger are to have moulded Premier League dynasties right from its inception, it is not their ‘moral’ right to dominate for decades to come.
Before Chelsea and Manchester City entered the fray, the league resembled a yearly lotto rollover for the same old winners. United and Arsenal triumph, the money keeps growing and flowing – straight into the hands of the victors.
Who could catch up without mortgaging their house, family and the pet goldfish? A cash injection from outside the domestic bubble proved the only way to break the cycle.
We as a nation may grind our teeth, in a fit of xenophobia against a foreign invasion, but with Sheikh Mansour in play City have strengthened rather than stifled the competition.
Another ill-founded criticism levelled at such overseas owners is a scattergun, fish-in-a-barrel blueprint to victory – neglecting a football club’s foundations to apply another lick of paint.
But as soon as the ink on Robinho’s contract dried, the Sheikh was drawing up a masterplan to redevelop Eastlands’ surrounding areas.
The Etihad Campus will become the flagship complex for sport on a global scale, incorporating training, education and community facilities all under one banner while the moneymen have pledged to a home-grown Sky Blues team by 2027.
Football won’t forgive City for their expenditure even if they do produce a United breed – circa 1995 – of British talent.
They needn’t be apologetic. Their presence bolsters a very privileged list of those in contention for the Premier League and, as they plough money into one of the country’s most impoverished areas, a little inspiration is provided along the way.
United fans aren’t the only people in Manchester who deserve that.