Football

Tying de Bruyne to Man City will mark true beginnings of a dynasty

Why Belgian will make City as big as Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich

There's always been a slightly awkward irony about the English Premier League.

The world's biggest league has rarely included the world's biggest clubs.

Occasionally, English clubs flirted with the accolade. A Treble here, an Invincible season there and so on, but they've seldom acquired true greatness.

They just couldn't keep their best players.

For those unique individuals, those unflawed gems at the peak of their powers, the EPL has always been a stepping stone to something better.

Cristiano Ronaldo, Luis Suarez, Gareth Bale, Xabi Alonso and even Thierry Henry set up shop in England before going global on the continent.

As for the likes of Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta, Kaka and Ronaldinho, the EPL was an entertaining distraction to watch on TV after a hard night's slog with a European franchise. It was never a desired destination.

But Manchester City could change that.

Kevin de Bruyne could change that.

The midfielder's contract negotiations will have a considerable impact on his club, the EPL and other leagues across Europe.

If de Bruyne stays, as expected, then the league leaders will have the makings of an imperial power, one not seen in English football before.

Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and even the cashed-up Parisians must be concerned.

In the past, a footballer of de Bruyne's calibre usually left England.

As a foreigner with no family or cultural ties to the country, a rising star made his name before satisfying a childhood ambition elsewhere.

De Bruyne is 26 years old. He was born a year before the European Cup was rebranded. In essence, he's a Champions League baby.

The competition's stirring anthem was the soundtrack of his youth. The bright lights of Europe's finest stadia dominated TV coverage and PlayStation games and the dream location was invariably Madrid, Barcelona or Munich.

It's been that way for a generation of international footballers. Unless they were local lads made good (the Class of 92) or quirky anglophiles (Eric Cantona, Dennis Bergkamp), the EPL was not a final destination for the best of the non-British.

Manchester United and Liverpool are considered the two most endearing franchises on the planet, certainly in Asia. But they couldn't keep Ronaldo or Suarez.

But City can pay de Bruyne whatever he wants and potentially pair him with whomever he wants. Money is no object and no transfer target is off limits for the voracious City Football Group (CFG).

For perhaps the only time in their careers, de Bruyne and former Socceroos manager Ange Postecoglou have something in common. They have the same employers.

Postecoglou has just put pen to paper to manage J-League club Yokohama F. Marinos.

EVER-EXPANDING UMBRELLA

The Japanese side, like Manchester City, both come under the ever-expanding umbrella of the CFG. The corporation already owns, or co-owns, six clubs on five different continents. And the oligarchs aren't done yet.

They also control hundreds of contracts of professional footballers worldwide, with a colossal network of scouts looking to draw children to their gleaming facilities.

From Japan (Yokohama) to England (Man City) and nearby Spain (Girona), via the United States (New York City), Uruguay (Atletico Torque) and Australia (Melbourne City), the CFG project has only one goal: global domination of the world's most popular sport.

Whether that's a positive thing is a debate for another time, but the repercussions are obvious. De Bruyne's new contract is pocket change.

He's on £115,000 (S$207,200) a week. His agent wants at least double. So he'll get it, because the Belgian isn't for sale.

That's the simple, but crucial difference.

In the past, almost every EPL club and player had a price. Whether it was Tottenham Hotspur and Bale, United and Ronaldo or Liverpool and Suarez, they all caved in the end.

None of those clubs - not even United - could promise a superstar the kind of playground that his talent and temperament warranted, not on a regular basis. Spain and Germany had bigger sandpits to play in.

But City now have the resources to compete at every level. They have the squad, the playing philosophy and the cheque book.

They have cerebral CEO Ferran Soriano and director of football Txiki Begiristain, both hand-reared in Barcelona, both at City for the long haul.

Most of all, they have Pep Guardiola, the enigmatic soothsayer who once tempted football's VIPs to Munich and Barcelona.

In theory, he can now buy and sell whomever he wants. The next Messi could conceivably be coaxed to Manchester - rubbish wet weather and all.

No EPL manager has been previously blessed with such a priceless advantage.

De Bruyne's new contract will help to confirm that. But the Belgian's signature will also mark the true beginnings of a dynasty.

The EPL will have its first non-selling club.

 

Football