Today there was a meeting between all the top brass at Manchester City in light of last night’s performance against Monaco, which saw them crash out of the Champions League. I watched that game and they were all over the place during it. The irony is that Monaco aren’t even a particularly good side; they have three or four players of real quality, but their squad, overall, is far behind that of the self-styled richest club in the world.
You would not know that to read the papers today, where the reaction to the result has been panic. And that panic has been felt keenly inside the walls of the club, where they believed Guardiola could replicate his style of football from Barcelona and take them forward.
When Pepe was at the Catalan giants he had arguably the best squad in world football, but he came from their reserve side initially, and he brought with him a style that elevated those players onto another plane entirely. I knew he would find it hard in England when the first thing he did was announce that he was changing his system to “better suit” the game there.
He’s fallen right into the other, most obvious, bear trap already, the one that ensnares all of English football right now, and gets everyone who sets foot in their top flight, no matter how well intentioned or idealistic. Guardiola has subscribed to the theory that the best way to answer a footballing problem is to throw money at it.
I’m sad to see that happen to Guardiola, because he’s a purist manager once, one of those guys who improves players, works with them to make them better and transforms teams that way. Once a boss goes down the cheque book route it’s very hard to get that back.
So I am disappointed in that, and in him, but it’s undoubtedly good news for Celtic.
This morning’s meeting at the club was trailed widely in the papers. The agenda seemed to be known. They are planning a clear out at the club and the spending of serious money, the kind no other club in the land could even contemplate. This will see players leaving, a lot of them, and I strongly suspect Patrick Roberts will be one of them, temporarily at least, if not on a permanent deal. They may want to bring him home at some point, but I think this is it.
Back in the day, Patrick Roberts would have been a prototypical Guardiola project. The chance to turn a talented young player into a world class star would have been too good an opportunity to refuse. But he’s been away from Barcelona too long. Bayern Munich look like the same kind of club, on paper, but he was barely there long enough to take on any such task. Roberts will not develop under this guy, not whilst Guardiola is in England.
Patrick Roberts will not make it at Manchester City. I think he already realises that. If he stays at Celtic there will be Champions League football and a chance to win more honours; where else is he going to get opportunities like that? He can wind up on loan at some English club, but what will he learn there that he won’t learn at Parkhead?
As I said last month, talks have taken place. How advanced they are I do not know, but Roberts will not fit into the new shape Manchester City is trying to mould on the back of last night. They were all over the place, and as Paul Brennan said over on CQN this morning it’s inconceivable that a player who’s been on loan in Scotland will be seen as part of the answer. They are far short of where they want to be as a club right now, and it’s a different club from the one which signed Roberts as a promising teen from Fulham.
None of this is the player’s fault. It’s perhaps simply his bad luck to have signed at such a time. It may yet prove to be the biggest break we’ve had as a club since Liverpool parted company with Brendan. This boy is going places.
He may yet get there in the famous green and white.