by Mark Booth
Even as a relatively young Manchester City fan, I think I’ve had my share of false dawns. I’d go as far as saying I’m even predisposed to them; why else would a 5 year-old football enthusiast shun his United-supporting peers to follow the city’s perennially overshadowed let-down merchants?
So when Sven Goran-Eriksson came to town, bankrolled by a former Thai Prime Minister, and unveiled five players in one press conference known only to the most devoted of European football followers (Martin Petrov, Vedran Corluka, Valeri Bojinov, Javier Garrido and Elano), my heart jumped. It was goodbye Georgios Samaras, and hello to the diminutive Brazilian playmaker, Elano Blumer, who joined from Shakhtar Donetsk in a £6m deal.
It’s easy to characterise the club’s 2007/08 season by the fortunes of the Santos graduate. They’re inextricably linked, such was his influence. On Elano’s début on the opening day at Upton Park, he showcased his full bouquet of talents from intricate, quick, incisive passing to his audacious long-range efforts on goal. This culminated in a glorious cross-field through ball for a fellow new boy, Rolando Bianchi, to slide home. It was to prove just a taste of things to come.
That glorious summer City flirted with the top spot, Sven’s charges playing a free-flowing style built around the centre point of Elano at the head of a midfield alongside Michael Johnson and Dietmar Hamann. Elano was everything I craved for from a Manchester City midfielder; intelligent, forward-looking and capable of the truly spectacular. His 30 yard free-kick against Newcastle is the overriding image of that heady summer, from the nonchalant run-up (watch it again, he practically has hands in pockets) to the ball’s straight-as-a-die passage into the very top left-hand corner.
But this is City, and history has told us that nothing good can last. The winter came and Elano’s form dwindled as heavy pitches told on the Brazilian’s previously peerless feet. Midfield spoilers learned how to handle him, and the smile of summer was replaced with a grimace and flashes of frustration that lead to many a premature withdrawal, which eventually became Elano’s starts on the substitutes bench.
Then, on the final day of the season an outgoing Sven Goran-Eriksson threw Elano on for Martin Petrov in the 71st minute against Middlesbrough. City trailed 7-0. The Brazilian picked up the ball almost immediately, cut inside and curled a ball around Mark Schwarzer to make it 7-1. It was typical City, the sublime and the ridiculous. City fans ironically celebrated it like the eighth goal of a rout.
2008-2009, and Elano’s second season proved to be his last in sky blue. Mark Hughes brought in fresh blood with Sheikh Mansour’s billions (Robinho and all) and Hughes immediately sought to break the Brazilian clique in the dressing room. Elano proved to be a casualty of this and was shipped out to Galatasaray, where he plies his trade today.
I still find myself trawling Youtube for clips of Elano in a Galatasaray shirt, and watched on with a strange pride as Elano’s World Cup 2010 started so brightly with a couple of goals and assists in the group stage, only to be ended with a rash tackle in the final dead rubber with the Ivory Coast. It was fitting perhaps for a player with all of the attributes, but who seems destined to fall tragically short of greatness. So it is.
Read more from Mark on his blog, Lavender’s Lollypop.