LONDON — The more you pay for most things, the better they are.

In football this is usually the case as Manchester City is proving, but the most expensively assembled squad in the history of the game is more beast than beautiful.





Hard to beat and equally hard to watch.

The £27 million City is set to pay Wolfsburg for striker Edin Dzeko brings the spending of the Middle Eastern owners to £350 million in 2 1/2 years.

Arsene Wenger calls it “financial doping,” but the way City parked the bus at Emirates Stadium and somehow escaped with a 0-0 draw against Arsenal was like a 90-minute sleeping pill.

City didn’t manage a single shot on target all night, and it is reasonable to hope for more from a side whose starting XI cost £170 million in transfer fees.

Credit to City for withstanding the pace, movement and precise passing of Arsenal, but Mancini took his side to London for a draw and it was mission accomplished. Manchester United, Arsenal, Tottenham and even Chelsea, 10 points from its last 11 games, would never shut up shop as City did.

It is still possible for City to overtake United and win the title, but if they are the best English football has to offer the Premier League is in a bad way. Champions tend to set trends and, while Roberto Mancini may claim lifting the title is the ultimate entertainment, with such massive investment it is right to expect style rather than substance.

The signing of Dzeko means that Mancini now has six highly paid strikers — a seventh, Craig Bellamy, is on loan at Cardiff — pushing for, at the most, two places: Carlos Tevez, Mario Balotelli, Emmanuel Adebayor, Jo and Roque Santa Cruz.

Such are the egos of some of these guys, they don’t even like being substituted let alone overlooked.

The average wage of the no-plays is £150,000 a week, so City will be paying £600,000 to strikers who are bench warmers or in the stands.

As Mancini has been using just one lone front-man this season — usually Tevez — that figure could be inflated even more.

Mancini has a near impossible task of keeping the dressing room happy, though most of us would be delirious to be paid £150,000 a week to play football.

There have been bust-ups, either verbal or physical, involving Kolo Toure vs. Adebayor, Jerome Boateng vs. Balotelli, Tevez vs. “certain executives,” Tevez vs. Mancini, James Milner vs. Yaya Toure.

It’s a pity the Fight Club is so restrained on the pitch.

* * * * *

BLACKBURN ROVERS’ new owners were correct when they said that trying to sign Ronaldinho “puts us on the map in terms of trying to bring players of that stature to the club.”

The trouble is the publicity Blackburn and Venky’s, the Indian poultry manufacturers who took over the club a couple of months ago, received was derision. We’ve had some — for legal purposes let’s just say unusual — foreign owners dipping their toes (or claws) into the Premier League in recent years, but no one like Venky’s

To even think of signing a washed up Brazilian who is past his best and pay him £20 million over three years should have the men in white coats on high alert. But to actually try to bring the 30-year-old to Ewood Park from AC Milan was beyond belief.

While we should all aim as high as possible, a reality check is needed at New Rovers. Ronaldinho has played for some of the biggest clubs in Europe and is rich enough not to be seduced by Venky’s millions.

Why on earth would he want to sign for a small Lancashire club, whose manager [Steve Kean] he has never heard of, and whose owners have attracted ridicule almost every time they say something?

For example, Venky’s chair Anuradha Desai: “The impression is I’ve never watched a football match. I’ve not watched in a stadium but I have been watching the World Cup in India. I have watched hundreds of cricket matches but not live — it’s all on TV. To say I don’t have any knowledge would be wrong. I am a good listener.”

The defense rests.

* * * * *

DAVID BECKHAM has consistently said he would never play for any Premier League club other than Manchester United yet is now apparently considering a loan spell with Tottenham.

This temporary marriage can only be based on commercial gains. Football-wise it doesn’t make sense for any of the parties.

Beckham has started just five games since last March when he ruptured an Achilles tendon while on loan to AC Milan. He returned to the Los Angeles Galaxy on Sept. 11 and has not played any football for seven weeks.

How can Beckham be anywhere near match fitness?

Beckham has nothing to gain by playing for any English club for a few weeks. The Galaxy begin preseason training at the end of January, ahead of the Major League Soccer season, which kicks off in March.

Christopher Davies was a longtime Premier League correspondent for theLondon Daily Telegraph.

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