Team of the Century: Six pre-Sheikh players make Man City cut

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A huge influx of big-money signings since Manchester City’s second takeover of the millennium might suggest that their team of the century would be entirely comprised of recent additions, but relics from the Thaksin Shinawatra era and beyond make it into our XI.

Joe Hart is handed the gloves, with his assured presence between the City sticks belying the fact that the 2010/11 campaign – in which he broke the club clean-sheets-in-a-season record previously held by Nicky Weaver – was his freshman year in the first team.

Few can have expected Pablo Zabaleta to become one of the bedrocks of the Citizens’ team when he signed along with half a dozen other full-backs, but his utterly committed displays towards the end of the title-winning campaign mark him out as head and shoulders above his rivals.

The squillionaire City sometimes lack a little when it comes to the likeability factor, so beloved utility man Sun Jihai is drafted in on the other flank. With many of the clubs’ more recent full-backs failing to nail down the jersey, a man who racked up 130 appearances for the club offers a consistent presence.

Current skipper Vincent Kompany is conspicuous by his absence from the centre of defence, but his omission is an understandable one, with four-time consecutive player of the year Richard Dunne given the armband alongside evergreen Premier League centre-half Sylvain Distin.

Our three-man midfield is equal parts samba magic, fire and brimstone tackling and force of nature with Elano providing silky touches and score-from-anywhere unpredictability, Nigel De Jong terrifying the opposition’s creators and Yaya Toure primed to take the game by the scruff of the neck as and when the mood takes him.

The wide players in the attacking three have something of the unbalanced nature of Catenacio godfather Helenio Herrera’s one-winger system, but this enables us to use both David Silva and Martin Petrov. The Bulgarian’s lightning pace and commitment to the disappearing winger’s ideals of chalk on your boots and getting to the byline combine with the quick feet and incisive through-ball-threading of Silva to serve up a smorgasbord of finishing options for our lone striker.

That final name on the team sheet can be summed-up in one elongated word from Sky’s Martin Tyler. “Agueeeeerrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrroooooooooooooooooooooo”.

City are 11/5 second favourites to win the Premier League in 2013/14 behind arch rivals Manchester United.

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