The Raheem Sterling transfer saga has finally been concluded and now, the young English star, is in the sky blue of Manchester City. A lot has been made over the amount paid for Sterling with the nay sayers stating that he still has a lot to both learn and prove on the field. A lot will be made of Sterling and the price and the truth is that only time will tell, which is why every transfer is a gamble.
Twenty years ago today City also made a gamble with another, young, a lot to prove, big money signing. The arrival of Georgian, Georgi Kinkladze marked a similar gamble for Manchester City at a time when their finances were less than secure. Kinkladze's transfer fee amounted to almost a quarter of the total outlay that season as he and seven others arrived at Maine Road.
There was no doubt that Kinklade had potential, a game against Wales for his National side put any of that doubt to rest, but could he do it week in and week out in a top league? City legends Bell and Book were at that game and their message to Chairman Francis Lee was clear, sign him no matter what. Maybe City, at that time, was not the most attractive option he had but he moved. City's form was so poor at the start of the 1995-96 season their first win didn't come until the season was three months old. Despite this the little Georgian became a hit with the City faithful and was soon being considered the star player of the City side.
March 16th 1996 would see Kinkladze score ‘that' goal against Southampton which won him Match of the Day's Goal of the Month and runner up to a Tony Yeboah volley for their Goal of the Season.
It was no surprise then that on the final day, when City were relegated to the second tier, speculation was rife that Kinky would move on. Barcelona, Inter and a number of other top European sides were linked with him but he opted to stay with City.
In the second season he continued to be the one shining light for City. Now the penalty taker since the departure of Keith Curle he got his name on the score sheet more often and his quality and confidence did not waiver. A missile of a free kick against Swindon Town and being marked by two or three opposition players in games proved that.
Once again the season ended with a sense of failure. The club failed to gain promotion back to the Premier League and once again thoughts of the star leaving were real. He would in fact continue to play for City for another season, but in the end be sold to Ajax for more than double the fee City initially paid.
Considered an unaffordable luxury by new manager Joe Royle as City slid toward the third tier of English football the move to Ajax was put through as City fell.
Kinkladze didn't play for City when the club were at their best, or even mediocre selves we became so used to in the 80's and 90's, but he remains a legend. He cried with the fans when we were relegated from the Premier League in his first season and then stayed to try to get us back, although I am sure more tantalizing prospects were within his reach. Along the way he left us with great memories in what otherwise was a very dark time for the club.