Until this week Manchester City's summer had been a rather understated one and a departure from summers past. Seemingly happy to hover under the radar as others around them grabbed (and in some cases sought) the headlines with signings and rumoured moves. The Eliaquim Mangala signing aside, made more complicated through the complexities of ownership, Txiki Begiristain and co. quietly and efficiently went about their business. Contrast this with the muddled effort of 2012 after their last Premier League title.
Impressive business it was too. As the 2013/14 season drew to a close they clearly identified areas of weakness, or rather lack of depth, within the squad and acted accordingly. In came Willy Caballero, Bacary Sagna and Fernando, followed by the surprise capture of Frank Lampard and more latterly Mangala. Key too was the ability to send out players on loan with the definite premise of them taking the next step towards challenging for the first team squad - Emr Huwys, Marcos Lopes and Jason Denayer all examples of that.
Not only this but they recouped a not inconsiderate amount from the sales of Jack Rodwell and Javi Garcia; some £20-25 million for a pair of back up midfielders was previously alien to City given their overpaying - necessary at the time - to gatecrash the Champions League party before the Champions League drawbridge barred entry for good.
All in all, a summer in the style of those now at the helm of the club. Very much in start contrast to those previously pulling the strings.
But what will ultimately define this summer are the events of this week when, on the cusp of the new season, City announced a flurry of activity in terms of the current squad extending their contracts for the long term. First up we had David Silva, then came Vincent Kompany and finally at City Live, that of Sergio Aguero. These followed the previous summer extensions for Samir Nasri and Aleksandar Kolarov and, if we are led to believe those of Joe Hart and Edin Dzeko are currently in the works.
The moves have been almost universally lauded given that three of the most important (if not the most important) pieces of the squad are signed and secure for five more years. Hart, Dzeko and James Milner aside there are not too many question marks over the squad in terms of pending free agents. The deals are not without concern though and as noted by shuddertothink on this very site the contract extensions will see most well into their 30's tied to City on high wages. The onset of age for footballers does, as we know, occurs sharply when a player hits 30 and the likes of Kompany and Aguero are not without injury histories which could further cloud matters. The fact is that City will see half a dozen players who will age together and likely depart together after a decades service. This is an area that will need to be carefully managed.
That said, the deals will benefit City in terms of Financial Fair Play in both the short term (reducing their immediate 'cap hit') and longer term as with revenues expected to continue to rise City's wage commitment should remain largely stable. The moves also illustrate a longer term commitment from the 'key core', surely an attractive bargaining chip in terms of future recruitment?
The signings, plus the new arrivals, do however continue the 'win now' mentality adopted by the Begiristain/Soriano axis; one that was apparent last summer with the acquisition of players considered on the older end of the spectrum. City are yet to see the summer window where players are brought in solely for the future; a consequence of the squad being in such a position where little if any genuine strengthening is required.
Perhaps now though we have reached that point. The squad possesses as much depth across all positions in terms of numbers and quality as we have seen. The reality now is that the squad may only need one impact signing next summer, a player of genuine world class ability. City can now focus on the future in terms of bringing in players, something we have seen with some younger players already and it would be foolish to think the net is not being cast far and wide at all levels.
Having secured the current generation for the long term, ensuring what will prove to be an unrivalled decade of on pitch success attention will be turned towards the next generation. Lopes, Huws and Denayer are examples of this approach already, the signings of Bruno Zucculini and Kelechi Iheanacho too. Slowly, but surely, we will begin to witness this to further effect over current windows.