City transfer lowdown - Roberts, Amadou, Sinani, McCallum and Sitti
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
Stuart Webber made the candid admission he let Daniel Farke down in the trading window prior to Norwich City’s Premier League return. Paddy Davitt sat down at Colney for an in depth chat with the club’s sporting director.
The early loan recalls for Patrick Roberts and Ibrahim Amadou last month underlined City's summer recruitment was not up to scratch ahead of the top flight assault - so says the man driving the strategy.
"I look back at our summer window with a tinge of disappointment," he said. "I think probably I, and we, let Daniel down when I look back with hindsight. Patrick didn't do well enough for us. Ibrahim didn't do well enough for us and I have to take full responsibility. I have no problem standing up and facing whatever questions come my way.
"January was much better and gets us on track for the second half of the season, and the mid-term.
"I thought it was a pretty good when you look at the objectives we set ourselves going into that window. We wanted to make at least two additions, to help the first team in the here and now.
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"We would have liked a third to be honest and that's disappointing we didn't get the third one.
"We got two senior players, one of which we own, in terms of Lucas Rupp, who I think will be good for the short, medium and longer term. And then obviously (Ondrej) Duda, who is a fantastic player if you look at what he did in the Bundesliga last season."
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City also planned for the future, with the additions of youngsters Melvin Sitti and Sam McCallum, although a reported initial £3m price tag for the former Coventry City prospect is wide of the mark.
"I think everyone knows us well enough that we're not paying £3m up front for a 19-year-old who's played 21 games in League One," said Webber. "Can the deal get up towards those figures? Absolutely, if he plays for England, and plenty of first team games for us.
"Most of our deals are structured in a way that if the player really succeeds, the club that they've come from should be part of. A bit like for us with the sale of James Madison.
"Sam's route is really interesting.
"We are a club who give opportunities to players who have come from a different route. Look at his path from non league stuff to Coventry, and his growth in 18 months at Coventry has been quite incredible, really.
"It is an opportunity to get a really highly rated young player who's got a lot of work to do.
"But for us, our only opportunity to get him was now. If we waited until the summer it would have become too expensive and the bigger clubs would have been able to get him. And certainly if Coventry get promoted and he starts playing Championship football we're out of the race.
"We can't afford established British Championship players. They are so hard to get."
Sitti had been on City's continental radar.
"Melvin is one we have been watching in France for quite a long time. One of our scouts, Lee Dunn, who does France flagged him to us very early on," said Webber. "It has been a process since then. I thought he fits the bill of a Norwich type of signing.
"Young player, had some first team exposure, has a really good profile from a physical point of view and he was out of contract in the summer so we could afford him and he was willing to come.
"That ticked a lot of boxes for us. But like Sam he has a lot to do when he makes the step in the summer."
City were heavily touted with another rising star in the shape of Luxembourg international Danel Sinani.
"For sure he's a player of interest to us whose contract is up this coming summer. We were never going to bring him in January," said Webber. "That was never on our agenda.
"He's one we're interested in for the medium term, he's a good player, albeit playing at a very difficult level to really assess but again he fits the type of player that we look for.
"If we could do something we would be really happy.
"We respect he is under contract to his current club, although with a European player we can officially speak to him. It's not right to talk too much but I am not going to sit here and lie and say we don't know him or he is not a player of interest."
Both Roberts and Amadou arrived with big reputations but never lived up to that billing.
"If we look at Patrick I was really disappointed with that," said the City chief. "I truly believed Patrick would come here and be able to make a difference. That didn't happen. The facts are he didn't do enough when he had the opportunities and then probably towards the end he didn't get enough opportunities due to the form of Emi Buendia, (Todd) Cantwell and (Onel) Hernandez.
"Who would have predicted Todd would play pretty much every game and have six goals and two assists at this stage of the season? I have a good relationship with Patrick and we shook hands at the end and look back on that as one that didn't work.
"With Ibrahim, if we're honest we didn't want him to go but we looked at the situation again and suddenly thought for the first time we've got three centre backs fit and Timm Klose isn't a million miles away too so in terms of covering that area he wasn't needed and the facts are that, when fit, Alex Tettey or Tom Trybull were ahead of him in the pecking order as a defensive midfielder.
"So again, it came back to an honest conversation that I had with the player and Daniel and the agent where we said, 'Listen, we'd love you to stay. But can we guarantee you're going to play much football? No, we can't.'
"Ibrahim made it really clear he needed to go and play for his career and we totally respected that.
"The interest came a lot later than we expected, it was literally lastminute.com. He was a signing we truly believed was going to come and make a really big difference to this team and that didn't happen. At the same time he helped us and got us out of a hole at times, and will always be remembered for playing in that Manchester City game.
"I'm sure in 20 years when people are saying name they're starting 11 he might be forgotten a little bit but you know he'll be part of the club's history forever because of that one game."