It is indisputable that Manchester City are acquiring a very good player in Fernandinho.
For eight seasons, the 28-year-old anchored the midfield of a Shakhtar Donetsk side that won six Ukrainian titles and a UEFA Cup—his energy in the centre of the park, passing ability and threat of goal saw him become the very definition of “engine room” during his stay in the southeast of the country.
But £34 million (€40 million) is a steep price to pay for any player, and by attaching that sort of valuation to the Brazilian, City are saddling their new signing with a weight of expectation he almost certainly won’t be able to bear.
Of course, City are not most clubs.
Since Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s Abu Dhabi United group took control of the club in 2008, a parade of high-profile, high-priced players have beat a path to Eastlands from all over the continent. And while the unprecedented level of spending served to inflate the transfer market—especially regarding their own bids—it has so far paid off with results, as well.
In 2013-14, City will participate in the UEFA Champions League for a third year running, and over that time, they have also lifted a Premier League title and FA Cup.
Fernandinho will only add to a group of players that is already highly competitive, but in paying more for him than Chelsea paid for Eden Hazard or Bayern for Mario Gotze—by shelling out the same amount Bayern forked over for Javier Martinez last summer—City are continuing down a road of financial irresponsibility most clubs simply could not fathom.
True, their loss of £97.9 million in the 2011-12 season represented a significant improvement on their £197.5 million deficit of the campaign before, as reported by the Manchester Evening News. But at this point, their Financial Fair Play compliance will almost certainly rest with a continued downward trajectory of losses—something they put at risk by so drastically overpaying for players.
Last summer’s acquisitions of Jack Rodwell and Javi Garcia now appear even more senseless than they did then, and by stockpiling players, City are ensuring several of their players will never reach the potential they might have at other clubs.
Fernandinho may be exactly the sort of player City need, and in that regard, they likely had no difficulty digesting the fee demanded by Shakhtar.
But it was a sloppy piece of business, and there may come a day when UEFA look unkindly on such lavishness—when their Financial Fair Play measures have a very devastating bite.