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50-50 Challenge: Real vs. Atletico

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50-50 Challenge: Arsenal vs. Man City

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 Posted by Simon Curtis
Sep 2, 2014

Negredo was king of all he surveyed at Man City

Alvaro Negredo is determined to restore Valencia to their former glories after being unveiled to fans on the pitch at the Mestalla.

Más vale ser cabeza de ratón que cola de león, as the Spanish say but whether this applies to the sudden and somewhat perplexing departure of Alvaro Negredo to Valencia is uncertain. What is sure is that the bearded front man, who many had taken to screaming the word "beast" at every time he appeared, has cantered back to a spot in football from whence he came.

Negredo's short but exhilarating time in the damp and cold of Manchester warmed many hearts, but alas it appears that a drawn-out inability to settle in North West England, played a large part in the player's eventual departure for Spain.

- Report: Negredo pens thank you note to fans
- Delaney: What did we learn on Deadline Day?

There is more to this story than simply a well-versed cultural difference between Spain and England, however, and one only has to take a brief glimpse at Negredo's City record to see a kind of inevitable dry rot had set in some months ago. If anybody had had the gall to suggest the wonderfully effervescent striker might be about to leave in the last winter window, that person would have been laughed straight out of town.

Between the season opener against Newcastle and New Year's Day, the powerfully built Spaniard notched 23 goals to lead City's scoring charts. Forging a robust, mobile partnership upfront with Sergio Aguero, there seemed nothing that was beyond the pair of them, but the two-legged Carling Cup semifinal with West Ham would prove to be both an extremely high point in his City career, but also a deep low from which he would arguably never recover.

The first leg of the semifinal, played in driving rain at the Etihad, featured a sumptuous Negredo hat trick, the first a volleyed left-footed shot from a Yaya Touré pass that fell over his shoulder from the halfway line, where it had been dispatched from. It was a goal of such supreme confidence, it took the breath away: Timing, accuracy, bravery, balance, skill and placement.

After a bright start to his Manchester City career, injuries and a lack of form eventually led Alvaro Negredo to leave the club.
After a bright start to his Manchester City career, injuries and a lack of form eventually led Alvaro Negredo to leave the club.

Two more goals were deposited in the Hammers' goal before Edin Dzeko and Touré himself got in on the act to complete a rout of such gargantuan proportions, City could be said to be the first ever team to qualify for the League Cup final after just one leg of the traditional two-legged semifinals.

But now, as the team prepared to head south to play out the rest of the tie, a critical mistake was made, one from which Negredo's City career, up to then bucking along like a runaway train, would never haul itself back onto the rails.

Six-nil ahead from the first leg, manager Manuel Pellegrini elected to play a weakened defence in what looked like an experimental side. Why not indeed? Give youngsters and squad players a run out. Critically, however, up front City would start with both Aguero and Negredo, an unnecessarily heavy front pair for such a meaningless match. The Argentine scored one and the Spaniard the other two on another night of easy drills and leg loosening canters. City were at Wembley, for the first time since 1976 in this competition, but still Negredo stayed on the pitch, which by now was heavy and wet, right through the dying minutes of the match.

A fall right at the end, awkwardly twisting his shoulder as he made contact with the turf, ruled him out for several weeks and when he came back, some said slightly too early, things looked very different.

Suddenly the barnstorming runs that had put him on the end of through balls were taking him down dark culs-de-sacs instead, the shots that had been flying in from all angles were disappearing into the crowd and those powerful proud square shoulders became slumped rounder and rounder.

He never recovered that incredible form of pre-Christmas. The goals and the form dried up simultaneously and to such dramatic effect that the player even missed out on the cut for the Spanish World Cup squad.

Negredo's time has now run its course at City, a sad and melancholy exit for a player, who had the world at his feet just six months ago. Whatever the Spanish phrase says about being kings in small places rather than ordinary mortals at higher levels, Alvaro Negredo Sanchez leaves Manchester City with his reputation as a first class striker of the highest order completely intact and for that many thousands of City supporters will wish him well.

Simon Curtis

Euphoric miserable Northerner, glass both overflowing and half-empty, Simon Curtis writes for Down the Kippax Steps, which according to The Guardian is the "best City blog around" and the Manchester City programme. Follow him on twitter @bifana_bifana

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