LONDON: Just as champions Manchester Cityare making progress financially so they appear to be standing still out on the pitch.
In six weeks’ time City are expected to report a £60m decrease in their financial losses from last year’s English record £197m deficit recorded last year as they remain on course to reduce debt to £80m by next year to help meet UEFA’s Financial Fair Play rules.
Revenue generation has benefited from a record-breaking £40m-a-year sponsorship deal with Etihad Airways, £60.6m for winning the Premier League plus £26.5m from UEFA’s Champions League hand-out.
But the losses gap has also been narrowed with comparatively restrained spending this summer which have affected manager Roberto Mancini’s ambitions to both win the Premier League again and come close to the Champions League.
They spent ‘only’ a net £23m on new players such as Javi Garcia, Maicon and Scott Sinclair balanced against the wage-saving exits of Emmanuel Adebayor, Adam Johnson, Nigel De Jong and Roque Santa Cruz.
This was not the best time to go Stoke against whom City have always struggled in recent years. They duly fell behind in the 15th minute to a a controversial goal from Peter Crouch which upset Mancini who insisted that the ex-England striker had handled the ball in the build-up.
City levelled in the 35th minute as Spanish midfielder Javi Garcia, one of three players making their City debut, headed in from Carlos Tevez’s cross.
Michael Owen came on in the last minute to make his debut for Stoke as they clung on desperately for the draw. Keeper Asmir Begovic made a superb save to deny Garcia and Potters captain Ryan Shawcross cleared an Edin Dzeko effort off the line.
A draw, however, was a fair result with City fans hoping that their favourites may have subconsciously distracted by the awareness of their high-profile Champions League clash against Real Madrid tomorrow [Tuesday].
Mancini denied this, saying: “We had two incredible chances at the end of the game and we were unlucky. It is a difficult pitch for us. Garcia scored an important goal and played well. Like Maicon, it was his first game. They don’t know their team-mates yet and for a first game they did well.”