José Mourinho has suggested that Manchester City will be under greater pressure to reclaim the title than his own Chelsea side in the season ahead having out-spent their rivals in the transfer market this summer.
While the London club wait to complete an eye-catching arrival of their own, with an improved bid of around £25m to be lodged with Manchester United for Wayne Rooney, City have quietly and efficiently added a quartet of pedigree players to their books under the new manager, Manuel Pellegrini. Stevan Jovetic, Alvaro Negredo, Jesús Navas and Fernandinho cost combined fees totalling a little under £100m, with Carlos Tevez, who joined Juventus, the only senior regular to have departed the Etihad Stadium to date.
Such expenditure is reminiscent of Mourinho's stewardship at Chelsea first time around, with the owner Roman Abramovich now more intent upon securing and developing younger talent and experienced signings, potentially such as Rooney, something of a rarity. With that in mind, and despite new arrivals from abroad usually needing time to adjust to the frenetic pace of the Premier League, the Portuguese believes expectation will be heightened at City as they seek to regain the title won so stunningly in 2012.
"I know the players they've bought," said Mourinho. "Navas and Negredo are world champions, European champions, both 27. Jovetic, for more than two years, has been one of the best in Italian football, a 23-year-old who has five years at Fiorentina, playing in Serie A at the highest level. Fernandinho is more than that because he has more experience, a national team player, big experience too. I think they are players without surprises who are more than ready for the Premier League.
"If you see their age, their maturity, they are in the perfect moment of their career to go to England, and there will be no need for adaptation, no need of work to learn the project. They are players at the top of their careers, experienced but still young, so I think they've bought very, very well. That doesn't surprise me because they have the money to buy, but also the knowledge. They have people in the club that know a lot about football. So it's no surprise for me they bought well. And they did it."
City were never challengers for major honours during Mourinho's first spell in the Premier League, the period immediately before the Abu Dhabi United Group started ploughing money into the Etihad set-up. The Chelsea manager suggested last week that his rivals' outlay should prompt similar scrutiny to when Abramovich poured mind-boggling funds into the Londoners' coffers in his early years in control. "People said: 'You buy this, you spend that, you buy the title,' so I hope now it is on the other side," he had said.
He also hinted that large squads of senior professionals, some of whom do not feature regularly, can create their own problems. Yet, asked if people should expect more of City given he is inheriting a project that leans heavily on the progress of younger prospects at Chelsea, Mourinho added: "Of course. Young players are not at the best they will be. They need to learn, they need time to get to the top."
Regardless of the success of their pursuit for Rooney, Chelsea do still boast a core of experienced players and have already added the £18.7m Germany international Andre Schürrle to their ranks this summer. Yet there will be an onus upon the likes of Juan Mata, Oscar and Eden Hazard, but also younger players still in Romelu Lukaku, Kevin De Bruyne and Marco van Ginkel, to make a prolonged impact. Mourinho is confident he can harness their talents and eke the best from them.
"If we win something important with this group, it will be the best [trophy he has claimed] for many reasons," added Mourinho. "Any time I had in my hands young players with conditions to become top players and play for the first team, I did it everywhere. In Porto, Carlos Alberto is still the youngest player to score a goal in a Champions League final. In Italy, [Davide] Santon, who is now at Newcastle, at 17 was going to be to Inter what [Paolo] Maldini was for Milan, but he had two big, big injuries.
"The kid still started playing with me at 17, against Manchester United in the last 16 of the Champions League. And there was another kid, at Real Madrid, [Raphaël] Varane, in front of everybody else at 17. Here (at Chelsea) Mikel John Obi arrived and [Claude] Makélélé dropped to the bench. Any time I have [had young players], I'm not afraid to go for it."
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010
image: © Ronnie Macdonald