Manchester City’s Classic XI

Every club has its heroes. But equally, there are players who you might have forgotten about. These are the players that we love at Forgot About Him, and this feature is dedicated to them. Manchester City, you’re next up.

Until relatively recently, the footballing battle in Manchester was a little one-sided. 12-time Premier League winners United had the overwhelming edge over their co-habitants, City, who have been relegated from the top-flight twice in that time. The lure of playing and living in one of England’s biggest, most exciting cities, though, has brought a whole host of colourful names to the blue side of Manchester, and with the club’s oil-rich Arab owners, City’s squad in 2011 includes some of world football’s most exciting players. Arguably the most obscure line-up so far out of all of Forgot About Him’s squads, this is Manchester City’s classic XI.

GK: Eike Immel

Former West Germany international Immel was 34 by the time he arrived at Maine Road in 1995. In the 1980s and early 1990s, Immel made around 250 appearances for two different clubs – Borussia Dortmund and Stuttgart. He won the Bundesliga with the latter in 1992 and was considered one of Germany’s best goalkeepers. However his international retirement in 1988, coming at a time when he was first choice stopper for his country, meant he missed out on a World Cup winner’s medal in 1990. After 43 appearances for City over two seasons, Immel retired from the game. In 2008, he took part in the German version of ‘I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here’, where he finished in fifth position.

RB: Hatem Trabelsi

Trabelsi was an important squad player at Ajax in the early 2000s. The speedy right back won two Eredivisie titles with the Dutch giants and was on the verge of signing for Arsenal after the second of those championships in 2004 – but the deal fell through for personal reasons. After two more seasons in the Netherlands, Trabelsi did move to England, signing for City on a free transfer in 2006. After initial work permit problems were ironed out, Trabelsi made 23 appearances for the club before losing his place to the emerging Micah Richards and Nedum Onuoha. He was released at the end of his first season at Eastlands and joined Saudi Arabian side Al Hilal Riyadh. Trabelsi made 61 appearances for Tunisia and appeared at three consecutive World Cups.

CB: Lucien Mettomo

Kevin Keegan brought in Mettomo in 2001 to strengthen his defence as City aimed to get back into the top flight. He made his debut in the League Cup against Birmingham and helped his new side keep a clean sheet in a 6-0 hammering. City stormed to promotion with Mettomo at the heart of the defence and the Cameroonian jetted off to the Far East to represent his country at the 2002 World Cup. Upon his return though, Sylvain Distin had signed and effectively pushed him down the pecking order. Barely picked in Manchester City’s first season back in the top flight, he departed for Kaiserslauten in 2003. Mettomo went on to play in Turkey and Switzerland before attempting to make what turned out to be an unsuccessful comeback to English football with Southampton. Still only 34, he has been without a club since 2009.

CB: Laurent Charvet

Charvet was first tempted across the English Channel by Chelsea boss Ruud Gullit in 1997, who signed the right back on loan. He made only a handful of appearances for the Blues but Newcastle saw enough in him to tempt him north. Gullit ironically became manager of the Toon shortly after and saw Charvet as a useful individual, able to play anywhere across the back four with competence. City were Charvet’s next port of call, with the Frenchman signing in 2000 as a replacement for Richard Edghill. However Charvet couldn’t hold down the right back position at the club, and fell down the pecking order upon Kevin Keegan’s arrival and his introduction of wingbacks. He ended his career at Sochaux in 2005.

LB: Michael Frontzeck

City signed the then 31-year-old Frontzeck in 1995 when Alan Ball parted with £350,000 for the German’s services. Capped nineteen times by his country, Frontzeck’s career until that point had seen him represent Mönchengladbach, Bochum and Stuttgart in the Bundesliga. His first season at Maine Road though ended in relegation from England’s top division. After falling out of favour in his second season, Frontzeck left to join Freiburg, having played under four managers in ten months at the club. After deciding to pursue a coaching career, Frontzeck managed Aachen, Arminia Bielefield and Mönchengladbach – the latter of whom sacked him in February 2011.

RM: Djamel Belmadi

City doubled their Algerian contingent when they signed Belmadi on loan from Marseille in January 2003. The 26-year-old midfielder joined fellow countryman Ali Benarbia at Maine Road, but found his chances increasingly limited in the four months he spent in the North West, making just two starts and six substitute appearances in an injury-plagued stint at the club. At the end of the season, then-City manager Kevin Keegan opted not to make Belmadi’s move permanent, stating, “I like him as a player but do we require another player in that position with the ones we have already got.” With the likes of Benarbia and Eyal Berkovic above him in the pecking order, the Algerian returned to Marseille. He then spent two years in Qatar, before returning to England briefly to play for Championship side Southampton, and then ending his career with Valenciennes in 2009. Since 2010, he has managed Qatari side, Lekhwiya SC.

CM: Maurizio Gaudino

One third of Eintracht Frankfurt’s ‘magic triangle’ of the early 1990s, alongside fellow German midfielder Uwe Bein and soon-to-be Leeds United forward Tony Yeboah, Gaudino’s form for Die Adler across this period lead him to be called up to Germany’s 1994 World Cup squad. When Gaudino, along with Yeboah, was suspended after a disagreement with Eintracht’s management, he left for City in December that year, scoring three times in 20 appearances during his time in Manchester, before returning to Germany at the end of the season. He then had spells in Mexico, Switzerland and Turkey, before calling time on his career in 2003 after a short stint at German fourth tier club, SV Waldhof Mannheim. Gaudino will be remembered most recently for being the unlucky German player on the end of London Mayor Boris Johnson’s now infamous unorthodox spear challenge in a charity match back in 2006.

CM: Christian Negouai

Branded by Kevin Keegan as “the most exciting player” he’d ever signed, Frenchman Negouai arrived in Manchester for £1.5million from Charleroi in 2001. The 6ft 4in central midfielder looked, on paper, to be the same mould as Arsenal’s Patrick Vieira, who himself had also arrived in England for a relatively meagre price tag. However, as with countless other Premier League imports from across the Channel who have been compared to Vieira, Negouai wasn’t up to scratch. He started in City’s first three games of the 2001/02 season, but went on to start just one more game in 44 months – a UEFA Cup Preliminary Round match in 2003, in which he scored. The Frenchman left City in 2005 after a two-game loan spell at Coventry, before turning out for teams in Norway and Belgium. One of the first name on the teamsheet when picking City’s worst ever XI, Negouai last played for FC Brussels in 2007.

LM: Kiki Musampa

A product of Ajax’s world-renowned youth system, Musampa left his homeland for Bordeaux in 1997, aged just 20, with the hope that first team football would earn him a place in Guus Hiddink’s Holland squad for the 1998 World Cup. He was ultimately overlooked, though, and transferred to Malaga in 1999, where he scored 22 goals in 99 appearances, predominantly from the left wing. His form for Los Boquerones prompted one of the big clubs in Spain – Athletico Madrid – to pay €3million for his services in 2003. After initially impressing, he found his chances limited – arriving at Manchester City in 2004 for the first of two consecutive season-long loans. His time in the North West was relatively successful, as City built a competitive squad. Spells in Turkey, Holland and South Korea followed, and he was even linked with a bizarre move to Wrexham in 2008, which eventually fell through. He retired in 2009, aged 32.

ST: Ronnie Ekelund

Ekelund arrived in England 1994 under rather irregular circumstances, or so the story goes. Football website Who Ate All The Pies report that Barcelona, where Ekelund played, and Southampton were staying in the same hotel during pre-season. Barca boss Johan Cruyff asked his Saints counterpart Alan Ball what he would like as a parting gift, to which Ball replied, “A left-sided midfielder.” The next day, Ekelund signed a loan deal with the English club. Regardless of the truth of that story, Ekelund did turn out for Southampton before Manchester City, for whom he only played for four times in an injury-plagued 1995/96 season for the Danish youth international. It wasn’t until 2001 when the 29-year-old Ekelund found his calling – in the MLS with San Jose Earthquakes. He was a revelation for the club, helping them to lift the MLS Cup in his first season, and after retiring in 2006, he became the Earthquakes’ Technical Advisor in 2008 – a position he still holds to this day.

ST: Mikhail Kavelashvili

One of only five Georgians to grace the Premier League, Kavelashvili joined his international team-mate, Georgi Kinkladze, at Manchester City in March 1996, signing for £1.4million. Back in his homeland, he had been relatively prolific, scoring 80 goals in 132 appearances for Dinamo Tbilisi, and his first appearance in Manchester City colours did wonders for his reputation amongst the blue side of the city. Within 39 minutes of making his debut against rivals Manchester United, he had scored, though City went on to lose the match 3-2, and were relegated at the end of the season, with Kavelashvili adding just two more goals to his tally in a further 29 appearances. He was loaned out to Grasshoppers of Switzerland in 1997, and left England for good two years later, before turning out for five more Swiss clubs and retiring, aged 34, in 2005, after a spell with FC Basel.

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One Comment to “Manchester City’s Classic XI”

  1. Where on earth in Kinkladze?! Possibly the finest ever Manchester City player!

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