A successful Manchester City side bolstered by local English talent is an ideal worth pursuing, writes Desmond Kane.

After a weekend when Noel Gallagher appeared on Match of the Day, it is perhaps poignant to recall a time when Manchester City were the quintessential English club. When Oasis and Gallagher ruled the world, City were Champagne Supernova without much champagne.
The mid-90s was a moment in time when Franny Lee was chairman and gone-but-not forgotten English managers like Brian Horton, Alan Ball, Steve Coppell and Frank Clark were doing the rounds at the old Maine Road as City yoyoed between the Premiership and the old First Division. And even the Second Division. 
Money has enabled City to desist with the requirement to buy British if the standard isn't good enough.
A bottomless pit of resources funded by a billionaire owner from the Gulf region have provided City with the finance to hire talent from within and outwith this part of the world. For such a club, the richest in the world, only the best will do. Nationality does not come into it.
When City walk out to face Barcelona in the first leg of their Champions League last 16 match on Tuesday evening a year after taking the same steps against the Catalan side, some within City will view it as the ultimate ambition for the English club. Not winning the Champions League trophy, but the organisation, infrastructure and brand awareness that Barcelona have built up.
It is almost like a football version of Ripley's Game in one club trying to be somebody else. That is no bad thing. Just an observation.
Barcelona are what City want to be. They have a culture and an identity that fits well with City's owner Sheikh Mansour, a figure who continues to be progressive in using football as a vehicle to promote his other main business interests. Namely the tourism and good name of Abu Dhabi as a place to do business and holiday.
Imitation is the best form of flattery, but the pursuit of perfection is not limited to acquiring fresh players. 
It is only two years since then Barcelona president Sandro Rosell apparently lamented City's very public pursuit of his club's best brains.
City recruited their director of football Txiki Begiristain and chief executive Ferran Soriano from Barcelona. When Barca visit the Etihad Stadium, both will support a home team with only two English players. Goalkeeper Joe Hart was plucked from Shrewsbury Town in his formative years.
The other, James Milner, was recruited for around £28 million from Aston Villa five years ago. 
"Manchester City have indeed launched an offensive to lure a number of people away from Barcelona," said Rosell. "We're talking about people at all levels of the Barca structure, not just players. Their attempts have been unsuccessful, though, as our employees are happy here. There have been contacts, but we have a fantastic group of people and nobody wants to go."
Nobody else wants to go. Not for the moment not least. Not even Lionel Messi, who arrived at Manchester Airport under police protection on Monday. But that won't deter City, or their strategy.
Money has changed the financial landscape of football, but never more so than at City.
In the seven years since the club were purchased by Abu Dhabi investors, City have collected two Premier Leagues, the FA Cup and a League Cup.
The Champions League is the remaining target, but you do wonder about them on such starry nights.
A chance to carry off the club game's biggest prize must surely by the main aim for a club with such largesse, but there were times in the group stage when City's followers sounded like they would have preferred to be feeding Shaun Goater or wallowing in Paul Walsh. Watching City jostle for mid-table mediocrity was greeted with as much fervour as a Moss Side brewery.
It is difficult to imagine Maine Road being as sedate under the floodlights as the Etihad Stadium has been in the Champions League. Unlike Gallagher, perhaps it is just the acoustics of the environs that they can't get right. Despite a Blue Moon hovering over the Etihad, City toiled to sell out the 3-2 defeat to CSKA Moscow in Novermber.
The 3-2 win over Bayern Munich a few weeks later has helped City to earn another go at Barcelona a year after they lost 2-0 at home and 2-1. It should send the City fans into a spin.
Pursuing the Barcelona model is not a bad ideal if it can be used to bring through a stream of English players in the same way Barca did with men like Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets. The list goes on and on. Barca have spent money, but they also have soul that represents their supporters. 
Part of Barca's success is pursuing the emergence and excellence of local youngsters playing the same way from the youth system until they turn professional. The £100 million spent on the construction of the City youth academy is an attempt to emulate Barcelona's reputation in developing kids as the mission statement suggests on the Premier League club's website. 
"We want to secure our future as one of the world’s leading football clubs by investing in the development of young talent. Welcome to the City Football Academy, our new home, located in the heart of our community and housing world class facilities for all of our players, junior and senior, male and female."
Despite Financial Fair Play, glory can be bought. Chelsea won the Champions League three years ago operating with three Englishmen - Ashley Cole, Gary Cahill and Frank Lampard - all of whom were purchased. 
Can City challenge for the Champions League with a team boasting a spine of Englishmen? As Gallagher's fellow Mancunian Morrissey sung: "England for the English." With the £5.136 billion television deal about to kick in, such a notion might seem fanciful or ridiculous, but surely Barca are proof that football can be more than just buying produce?
"We're asking the new manager to build a squad and also a football concept and a way of working that will last 10 years," said Soriano after City had recruited Manuel Pellegrini as their manager.
"This was a long-term decision taken with a lot of careful analysis. I was worried about the image we were giving the world."
And the image City gives to the world is they can sign success at any price. Developing young English talent would take some doing, but remains a concept of greater value than winning the Champions League. Or any other trophy on the go.

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