City's Sheikh-shake: The Top 10 Transfer Flops at Manchester City

Adam Bloszko

Adam Bloszko

4.5

Since Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan's acquisition of Manchester City in 2008, the club has undergone a dramatic transformation, transitioning from a mid-table team to one of European football's most formidable forces. This evolution has been underscored by their numerous Premier League titles and strong presence in continental competitions. However, Manchester City has experienced several notable transfer flops amidst their successes. 

These missteps have ranged from high-profile signings who failed to meet expectations to players who struggled with injuries or failed to adapt to the demands of the Premier League. In this article, we will delve into the ten worst transfers made by Manchester City during the Sheikh era, examining the impact these signings had on the club's fortunes and the lessons learned from these costly errors.

Robinho: Sheikh's Expensive Welcome Gift

Robinho Manchester City stats

Photo by Alfonso Jimenez/ CC BY / Cropped from original

Robinho's arrival at Manchester City in 2008 was a landmark moment in the club's history, symbolising the beginning of a new era of ambition under Sheikh Mansour's ownership. His acquisition for a then-British record fee of £32.5 million was a clear statement of intent, signalling City's aspirations to compete at the highest level of European football.

Despite a promising start with early displays of skill and flair, Robinho struggled to consistently perform at the level expected in the physically demanding Premier League. His dazzling skills and moments of brilliance were often overshadowed by a lack of consistency and adaptation to the English game's rigours.

Injuries further hindered his impact, limiting his availability and ability to influence matches. Additionally, Robinho's off-field behaviour, including issues with punctuality and a lack of professionalism, often drew more attention than his on-pitch contributions, leading to criticism from fans and pundits alike. Ultimately, Robinho's time at City ended disappointingly, as he was sold to AC Milan in 2010. 

Robinho manchester city stas
Competition Played Started Unused Goals Win/Draw/Lose
Premier League 41 36 2 14 18/6/17
FA Cup 1 1 0 1 1/0/0
League Cup 1 1 2 0 1/0/0
UEFA Cup 10 10 0 1 6/1/3

Eliaquim Mangala: Bullied by Shane Long

Eliaquim Mangala Manchester City stats

Photo by Голубович Дмитрий/ CC BY / Cropped from original

Eliaquim Mangala's arrival at Manchester City in 2014 was a significant moment for the club, with the French defender joining for a substantial fee of £42 million from Porto. His signing was expected to strengthen City's defense and provide a reliable presence at the back. However, Mangala struggled to adapt to the pace and physicality of the Premier League, which led to inconsistent performances and defensive errors.

Despite showing glimpses of his potential, Mangala failed to establish himself as a regular starter for City. His lack of composure under pressure often resulted in costly mistakes, contributing to frustration among fans and management. As a result, he was loaned out to Valencia and later sold to Everton, marking the end of his underwhelming spell at City.

Eliaquim Mangala manchester city stats
Competition Played Started Unused Goals Win/Draw/Lose
Premier League 57 51 26 0 40/9/8
FA Cup 1 1 2 0 1/0/0
League Cup 9 9 1 0 5/2/2
Champions League 12 10 11 0 6/3/3

Wilfried Bony: Illness and injury hell

Wilfried Bony Manchester City photo

Photo by Conceited 2/ CC BY / Cropped from original

Wilfried Bony's transfer to Manchester City from Swansea City in 2015 was anticipated to strengthen City's attacking prowess, with the Ivorian striker joining for a reported fee of around £28 million. Despite his reputation as a prolific goal scorer, Bony struggled to secure a regular spot in the starting lineup. This was partly due to the presence of other high-calibre attacking talents in the squad, which limited his playing time and overall impact on the team.

Intermittent flashes of his goal-scoring abilities marked Bony's time at City, but he lacked the consistency expected of a player of his calibre. He was subsequently loaned out to Stoke City and later sold back to Swansea City, failing to live up to the expectations set by his price tag during his tenure at City.

Wilfried Bony Manchester City stats
Competition Played Started Unused Goals Win/Draw/Lose
Premier League 36 15 3 6 22/6/8
League Cup 3 2 0 2 2/1/0
Champions League 7 3 3 2 3/1/3

Stevan Jovetić: Champions League Snub

Stevan Jovetic Manchester City stats

Photo by Ilya Khokhlov/ CC BY / Cropped from original

Stevan Jovetić's arrival at Manchester City from Fiorentina in 2013 was initially met with excitement, as the Montenegrin forward was seen as a player who could provide valuable competition for the club's established strikers. However, Jovetić's time at City was marred by persistent injuries, which prevented him from significantly impacting the team. 

Despite showing flashes of his talent, he struggled to maintain fitness and form, resulting in limited playing time and contributions on the pitch. Jovetić was eventually loaned out to Inter Milan, where he enjoyed a more successful spell, showcasing his abilities when fit. He was later sold to Sevilla.

Stevan Jovetic Manchester City stats
Competition Played Started Unused Goals Win/Draw/Lose
Charity Shield 1 1 0 0 0/0/1
Premier League 30 11 12 8 17/7/6
FA Cup 4 3 0 1 3/0/1
League Cup 4 3 0 2 3/0/1
Champions League 5 1 3 0 2/2/1

Jack Rodwell: Winless for 36 games, 115 Minutes per season

Jack Rodwell Manchester City stats

Photo by Leon Queeley/ CC BY / Cropped from original

Jack Rodwell's transfer to Manchester City from Everton in 2012 was viewed as a move that could bolster City's midfield depth and add quality to the squad. However, his time at City was largely overshadowed by persistent injuries, which prevented him from establishing himself as a regular starter. Despite showing promise, Rodwell struggled to maintain fitness and form, significantly limiting his impact on the pitch.

Rodwell's career at City was characterized by frustration due to his inability to stay fit consistently. He was eventually sold to Sunderland, where he faced similar challenges with injuries. His time at Sunderland mirrored his experience at City, with fitness issues continuing to hamper his progress and prevent him from fulfilling his potential.

Jack Rodwell manchester city stats
Competition Played Started Unused Goals Win/Draw/Lose
Premier League 16 7 16 2 9/6/1
FA Cup 4 1 1 0 3/0/1
League Cup 3 2 0 0 3/0/0
Champions League 2 0 1 0 1/1/0

Emmanuel Adebayor: "Mancini treated me like a Child!"

Emmanuel Adebayor Manchester City stats

Photo by Roger Gorączniak/ CC BY / Cropped from original

Emmanuel Adebayor's transfer from Arsenal to Manchester City in 2009 was a significant move aimed at bolstering City's attacking prowess, with the Togolese striker joining for approximately £25 million. However, Adebayor struggled to replicate the form he had shown at Arsenal, failing to impact the pitch significantly. His time at City was characterised by inconsistency, with occasional flashes of brilliance overshadowed by prolonged periods of underperformance.

Adebayor's tenure at City was also marked by off-field controversies, including incidents involving fans and teammates. These off-field issues further strained his relationship with the club and its supporters. He was eventually loaned out to Real Madrid before being sold to Tottenham Hotspur.

Emmanuel Adebayor Manchester City stats
Competition Played Started Unused Goals Win/Draw/Lose
Premier League 34 27 4 15 14/13/7
FA Cup 2 2 0 0 0/1/1
League Cup 3 2 0 0 2/0/1
Champions League 6 5 0 4 4/1/1

Scott Sinclair: Never given a chance

Scott Sinclair Manchester City stats

Photo by Ailura/ CC BY / Cropped from original

Scott Sinclair's transfer to Manchester City from Swansea City in 2012 was a significant move aimed at bolstering the squad's attacking options. However, the English winger found it challenging to secure regular playing time, often being relegated to a fringe role within the team.

Sinclair struggled to make a significant impact at City and was subsequently loaned out to several clubs. Despite showing glimpses of his talent, he failed to establish himself as a key player and was eventually sold to Celtic.

Scott Sinclair manchester city
Competition Played Started Unused Goals Win/Draw/Lose
Charity Shield 1 0 0 0 0/0/1
Premier League 13 2 18 0 6/5/2
FA Cup 2 0 2 0 2/0/0
League Cup 2 0 0 0 1/0/1
Champions League 1 1 3 0 0/0/1

Roque Santa Cruz: Arrived at City already injured

Roque Santa Cruz Manchester City stats

Photo by Ailura/ CC BY / Cropped from original

Roque Santa Cruz's transfer to Manchester City from Blackburn Rovers in 2009 was seen as a move to bolster City's attacking options. However, the Paraguayan striker's time at City was plagued by persistent injuries, which hampered his playing time and prevented him from establishing himself as a regular starter.

Santa Cruz struggled to significantly impact the pitch and was subsequently loaned out to several clubs. Despite his talent, he was unable to secure a permanent place in the team and was eventually sold to Malaga.

Roque Santa Cruz Manchester City stats
Competition Played Started Unused Goals Win/Draw/Lose
Premier League 20 6 13 3 7/9/4
FA Cup 2 0 1 0 0/1/1
League Cup 2 2 1 1 1/0/1

Fernando: In Fernandinho's shadow

Fernando Manchester City stats

Photo by Leon Queeley/ CC BY / Cropped from original

Fernando's transfer to Manchester City from Porto in 2014 was intended to enhance the team's midfield stability. However, the Brazilian midfielder struggled to adapt to the fast-paced nature of the Premier League. Criticisms of his performances often centred on a perceived lack of mobility and dynamism in midfield. Despite showing promise initially, Fernando failed to cement his place as a key player at City and was eventually sold to Galatasaray.

Fernando manchester city stats
Competition Played Started Unused Goals Win/Draw/Lose
Charity Shield 1 1 0 0 0/0/1
Premier League 64 44 25 4 38/14/12
FA Cup 9 6 1 0 5/1/3
League Cup 7 5 1 0 4/1/2
Champions League 21 15 4 0 11/6/4

Nicolas Otamendi: Glued to the Bench upon Laporte's arrival

Nicolas Otamendi Manchester City stats

Photo by Brad Tutterow/ CC BY / Cropped from original

Nicolas Otamendi's transfer to Manchester City from Valencia in 2015 was expected to strengthen the team's defence. However, the Argentine defender struggled with consistency during his time at the club. While he displayed flashes of his talent, Otamendi was often criticised for his rash decision-making, which led to defensive lapses. Despite making significant contributions at times, he failed to establish himself as a key player at City and was eventually sold to Benfica. 

Nicolas Otamendi manchester city stats
Competition Played Started Unused Goals Win/Draw/Lose
Charity Shield 2 1 0 0 1/1/0
Premier League 136 124 37 8 94/20/22
FA Cup 17 17 2 1 15/1/1
League Cup 15 15 4 1 9/3/3
Champions League 40 37 9 1 26/7/7

Final Thoughts

While Manchester City's transfer policy under Sheikh Mansour has mainly been successful, several high-profile failures have occurred. The signings mentioned in this article failed to live up to expectations for various reasons, costing the club financially and in terms of on-field performance. However, these failures have not overshadowed City's overall success in recent years, as they continue to be a dominant force in English and European football. Preview photo by Ank kumar/ photo2 by Dragan TATIC/ CC BY 2.0/4.0/ Cropped from original

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Review Author

Adam Bloszko

Adam Bloszko

My name's Adam, and I'm known as a 'football nerd' by most of my friends. That is one of the best things I have ever been called.