Tuesday 20 January ~
So, perhaps unsurprisingly, Kaka will not be coming to a Premier League ground near you. Among the lurid tabloid headlines, tedious details of the Brazilian's “Reborn in Christ” Church, and AC Milan’s gloating – having finally decided they want to retain Kaka’s services – Manchester City are now trying to convince anyone who will listen that they were in control during negotiations. Their main mouthpiece, and perhaps the only man who can seem creepier than Silvio Berlusconi preaching about love and morality, is “executive chairman” Garry Cook.
Opting for the theory that attack is the best form of defence, Cook has accused AC Milan of “bottling” it and revealed that he spent several hours talking to Kaka’s father: “His dad said he was very interested in the project. We talked a lot about a humanitarian approach and also environmental issues and the statements his son would like to make around the world.” Cook’s politics have clearly changed dramatically since he worked under Thaksin Shinawatra. When asked about the former City owner’s human rights record in Thailand, Cook stated: “I need a left-back who can win tackles, get the crosses in and Jo can bang them in. Whether he’s guilty of something over there, I can’t worry too much about.” Cook's previous employment history is also never far from the surface: “I worked at a company – Nike – where we were accused of child labour rights issues. I managed to have a career there for 15 years and I believed we were innocent of most of the issues. Morally, I felt confident in that environment. Morally, I feel comfortable in this environment.”
Attempting to hide his clear humiliation, Cook last night released an statement, extremely quickly after Berlusconi’s live Italian TV appearance, which appeared to claim that City themselves had cancelled the deal: “A transfer must work commercially, financially, results on the field and within City's broader community.” Quite what this really means is open to interpretation. Yet it got better – Milan were only interested in the money rather than higher motives, apparently: “The agenda we thought we were on was about Kaka coming on a journey with this club but at the end the only journey they were on was a fiscal one. We’ll continue on our journey but he won't be a part of it.” Surely a “journey” is a rather prosaic extended metaphor for a man of Garry Cook’s obvious talents. Perhaps in the future we may see more imagination – City could remain a figurative housing block, just with different foundations following John Terry’s rejection. Gianluigi Buffon’s decision to stay at Juventus would merely be a different twist to Manchester City as metaphorical detective novel. While of course the club will always be a Swiss Army knife – just without Lionel Messi they won’t have a tool for getting stones out of horses’ hooves.
Cook has plans not only for Manchester City but the league as a whole: “Are we maximising the central entity of the Premier League? If only we would. The club chairmen tend to think globalisation is about selling more shirts. It’s about strategic partners in other countries – Red Bull, Thai Airways.” He also believes in a ring-fenced elite top division: “I’d like not to have promotion and relegation. There’s an emotion around those battles but the dynamics by which fans can get their kicks can change.” But he’s up for some self sacrifice too: “If you could central-entity [this time used as verb] the top ten teams to create a global empire called the Premier League, I would sacrifice my own club [Birmingham City] into another division for that.”
Yet unfortunately, Cook is not going to disappear any time in the near future. His pursuit of a superstar will not cease – he believes “China and India are gagging for football content to watch and we’re going to tell them that City is their content” but “Richard Dunne doesn’t roll off the tongue in Beijing”. So despite today’s rumours of Robinho's walkout, dressing room unrest and transfer window time running out, this is only the beginning. When rejected by Ronaldinho last year Cook stated: “Ronaldinho was up for it but he got a call from AC Milan. One day we’re going to be a club that players say: ‘Manchester City just called me, I had no choice’.” This clearly hasn’t happened yet, but thanks to Cook’s statements, attitudes and politics, Kaka’s rejection has provided neutrals everywhere with great satisfaction.