Is blue heaven really such a dream?

MANCHESTER City's fans were, it seemed, in a state of eager ecstasy.The air was certainly turning sky blue with cliché, the talk all of fairytales and dreams come true.

Aidan Semmens

MANCHESTER City's fans were, it seemed, in a state of eager ecstasy.

The air was certainly turning sky blue with cliché, the talk all of fairytales and dreams come true. I'll swear I even heard one “over the moon” uttered in all seriousness by someone who claimed, obviously wrongly, to be speechless.

The only note of realism was sounded by a woman who confessed: “It's not the game I used to watch when I were a kid.”

Ain't that the truth. It's as if Pele or Rivellino had been parachuted in to play alongside Colin Bell and Francis Lee.

Except that none of the City squad now to be joined by the Brazilian Robinho will ever have the deep association with the club that applied to most of the 1968 League title-winning side.

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As for Robinho himself, why would a 24-year-old whose stated ambition is to be recognised as the best footballer in the world join a team not even competing in European competition? Especially when only the day before he had still been declaring that his “dream move” would be to Chelsea?

Had he got his Manchesters mixed up (most Brazilians apparently think “Manchester” is synonymous with “United”)?

Or was there, perhaps, some connection with the fact that City had that very day become potentially the richest club in the Premier League, perhaps in the world?

If I were a City fan - hard to imagine, but I'll try - I think I'd have very mixed feelings today.

Of course I'd be looking forward to watching Robinho and to more top-level signings in January. And yet I'm sure there'd be an uneasiness too.

Yes, it's nice to see the Chelsea-United domination of the market broken. And yes, it's nice to see the back of Thaksin Shinawatra and his maybe-not-squeaky-clean money.

But there's something innately depressing about the way British football has become a global commodity.

The way success or relative failure depends on the wealth and whims of men rich enough to buy and sell like pork-belly futures the clubs you and I and the other fans are connected to as if by blood.

Eight Premier League clubs are now owned by foreigners. That's if you count Fulham, though Mohamed Fayed was a west London shopkeeper for years before buying his local team.

City, tellingly, are the first to be traded between non-Brits - and you can't tell me either Shinawatra or the Abu Dhabi United Group were committed Sky Blues before making their purchases.

Either might just as well have bought Newcastle, which might have made Kevin Keegan's life look different today. Or Ipswich - ditto Jim Magilton. Or Inverness Caledonian Thistle (hang on, I'll just look it up… Charlie Christie).

Of course, the Scottish League doesn't have quite the worldwide glamour of England's top flight.

Neither does the Championship, though our own Superblues could in theory get into Europe just as soon as Man City.

As for the Toon (or, for older readers, the Magpies), their owner is English and never appears in public minus his black-and-white stripes. But to the real locals Mike Ashley is about as Geordie as the Dubai royal family (who want Liverpool but may yet take Newcastle).

Of course, complaints about money taking the local pride out of football go back at last to 1905, when Alf Common moved from Sunderland to Middlesbrough for a record fee of £1,000. The game's never been quite the same since.

What we have now, though, is fundamentally different. It's not the money put in by the local butcher, the local fans or even the local engineering company.

“Our” top clubs have become brands, global TV billboards, squares on the international Monopoly board.

For Chelsea, Manchester United, Liverpool, Man City read Park Lane, Mayfair etc. (For Newcastle, Go straight to Jail, do not pass Go.)

City have followed Chelsea and Portsmouth in picking up the proceeds of oil.

It may be a fairytale, a dream come true. But it's also taking the clubs a little further away from the fans who think so.

JON STEAD. Not exactly Dimitar Berbatov, is he? Nor yet Angelos Charisteas.

He might do a job, as they say, in the Championship, though I'm not sure he's really even an adequate replacement for Alan Lee.

And what happens when Ipswich play Sheffield United, who still hold Stead's permanent contract?

Like Reading boss Steve Coppell, I think the whole loan system should probably be scrapped. Especially loans between clubs in the same league.

At the end of last season we had a situation where a goal by Shefki Kuqi for Ipswich could have denied a play-off place to Crystal Palace, who still owned his registration. How crazy is that?

I DON'T like to say “I told you so” - no, that's not true, I like it as much as the next bloke. And since the next bloke's also a journalist…

Back in January I wrote here: “The second coming of Keegan? Don't expect miracles.”