An open letter to Edin Dzeko:
Son, as a Manchester City fan I’ll make no secret of the fact that I’m delighted you’ve decided to join the Blue Revolution at this stage of the season. Nevertheless, I believe you should know what you’re getting yourself in for and be fully aware of the true size of the challenge you’re about to face.
I understand you had a difficult time in Bosnian football, where your qualities were not recognized in early days of your career. Back then you were a figure of fun, and picked up the nickname "Kloc" – the local slang term for a lamp-post. When your club picked up a check of €25,000 for you transfer to the Czech Republic five years ago, they blew most of the money on champagne because they couldn’t believe their luck in landing such a handsome fee for a player who they classed as utterly useless. The rest is, of course, history. Your talent prevailed and the good people of Zeljeznicar will today feel like they’ve been dum as, well, Klocs.
Being a Sarajevo child you’re no stranger to hard times, so your days with Zeljeznicar must have been child’s play when you consider the horrors of growing up in a state of war. Life must feel easy to you now, not even 25 yet, having developed a reputation as one of the best strikers in Europe. Trust me son, it’s about to get complicated. If you expect having it easy, you’ll be training in the wrong side of Carrington. It may not be what you’d like to hear, but the least I can do is be totally honest with you. You see, honesty is something that will be in very short supply from the moment you pull a sky blue shirt on.
Don’t get me wrong: the club will welcome you with open arms, as they have other players who took the step of joining the blue revolution. Pay cheques aside, Man City are known for looking after their players and taking certain personal circumstances into account- but unfortunately you won’t be living and playing inside a blue bubble.
You won’t get honesty from the media. Firstly, forget your name. You’re no longer Edin Dzeko. From this day forward, you will be known as £27m Dzeko. The price tag will always be written or spoken before your surname. If you think that’s annoying, think again- you’ll also be referred to as “prima dona”, “underachiever”, “flop”, “pampered millionaire”. What if you’re actually scoring goals, you might ask? Sorry, it won’t make an ounce of difference. Mario Ballotelli has made 11 appearances since joining City, scoring eight goals. If you looked in the papers this week, you’ll have seen yet another piece of , erm, “news” linking him with a move to AC Milan because “he has failed to settle in England” (sic). Robinho (sorry, that’s £32m Robinho), scored 16 goals in his first season with City which you probably will think is a decent return for an attacking midfielder, but didn’t shield him from being constantly slated for scoring mostly in home games. Nothing that is written or spoken about Manchester City has to be true these days… as long as pleases the right parties and has the potential to unsettle the club or its players.
You’d have it easier if you moved across the City. To the outskirts, to be precise. You will have heard of Manchester United, of course- the global brand created and marketed by BskyB, the owners of Sky Television. The club has never known a Manchester ground, but the name stuck.
I digress. Life is somewhat different if you sport a red shirt… for starters, no one goes by the name of “30m Berbatov”, “30m Rooney”, “£30m Ferdinand”, “17m Nani” or “18m Anderson”. You will never have heard of “15m Ronaldo”, £19m Van Nistelrooy” or “29m Veron” (the latter is actually used very often by stand up comedians in the Northwest circuit). Apparently, all Manchester United players come from their academy and successfully make it through the ranks.
If you joined them and flopped for two whole seasons, it wouldn’t be a problem- the pundits would keep saying that they “can see glimpses of genius” with every touch and the papers would defend that “every player needs time to settle”.
If you were unable to score from open play for almost a year, it would be said that “the team get so much more than goals” from you.
You could throw the Little Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White and all Seven Dwarfs into an industrial sized grinder, push the start button and the media would say that they all had it coming.
You won’t get honesty from The Game. Hating Manchester City has become fashionable so there will be plenty of fellow professionals and managers queuing up to have a pop at you and your colleagues. City are ruining the game, they are buying their way to the title (although money won’t buy you success), they unsettle players with massive offers, Lee Harvey Oswald wore a sky blue shirt when he shot JFK.
Again, you’ll notice the difference in treatment if you happen to sport a red badge. There won’t be many managers coming to Old Trafford without heaping praise on the “greatest manager” in the English game and gushing about their “entertaining football”. It may not be the best team talk to motivate your players, but that’s not the point they’re trying to make. Which is probably why teams like Blackburn, one of the meanest and most physical in the EPL, tend to go AWOL during their visits to Old Trafford… or maybe they spend too much time in the club shop buying souvenirs.
You won’t get honesty from the officials. Not all of them, anyway… and City tend to end up with the wrong one when it really matters. You may be used to the physical side of the Bundesliga but this is literally a different ball game. If you think you’ll get a penalty for being manhandled in the penalty box, think again. If you’re tripped, expect to be told to get back up, nothing given. If you protest, you’ll be booked for dissent. If a player fouls you five or six times, you’ve had enough and feel tempted to give him a piece of your mind, there’s a red card with your name on it… and as you will have seen this week, if you’re actually headbutted by an opponent, you’ll also get your marching orders just for being there.
You may have gotten the wrong impression when watching Manchester United games on Sky. Yes, they’re on TV that often that if you’re abroad, you tend to think there’s nothing else in the Premier League…
You’ll probably think it’s illegal to give a penalty against United at Old Trafford. Ironically, you may be closer to the truth than you think.
You will have seen the ball cross United’s goal line by the best part of a yard, yet no goal being given. You’ll have seen Nani picking the ball up mid-play, demanding a non-existent penalty, then scoring from the free kick that should have been the keeper’s to take. You will have seen Ferdinand ripping Sagna’s shirt with a ferocious challenge, or Vidic pulling Zamora to the ground in the six yard box at Craven Cottage- and both getting away with it. You will have thought how lucky Gary Neville was not to be sent off in the first half of the last two starts he’s made for his club.
You will have seen all that and so much more and maybe, just maybe, thought the officials in this country are great chaps and wouldn’t it be fun to join a league where the whistle is not being blown every thirty seconds.
I have news for you, son: it doesn’t work like that for the Sky Blues. If you came to England for an easy ride, you’ve joined the wrong club I’m afraid. The lines you’ve just read describe only a fraction of the abuse and injustice you will have to face if you’re to see your brand new contract through.
On the other hand, if you came to join one of the most exciting projects in world football and play your part in the awakening of a sleeping giant… if you realise it’s City against the world… if you’re read to understand that City fans will worship the ground you score goals in, regardless of the rubbish that may be written or spoken about you…
… Welcome to Manchester