Manchester City could field the following team this season:
Joe Hart; Micah Richards, Nedum Onuoha, Vincent Kompany, Wayne Bridge, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Gareth Barry, Adam Johnson, Robinho, Emmanuel Adebayor, Craig Bellamy
In the reserves.
If City sign Mario Balotelli and James Milner before the season starts, all of the above could find themselves outside a first XI comprising: Given; Boateng, Lescott, K Toure, Kolarov; Milner, Y Toure, De Jong, Silva, Tevez, Balotelli.
It would almost certainly be the strongest second-string in club football history, a team well capable of achieving a top-six finish but condemned to spent the next 10 months picking splinters out of their backsides. Not even in the days when Alex Ferguson could summon Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer from the bench have we seen anything like it.
City's reserves are nearly as good as their first team, which illustrates precisely their problem. And why they desperately need to sign Fernando Torres.
In terms of total squad talent, City are way ahead of anyone else, but unfortunately you can only play 11 at a time. They have spent hundreds of millions overpopulating a squad that still lacks truly exceptional individuals.
Chelsea's success is built on the indomitable (at club level, at least) central spine of John Terry, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba.
Manchester United won the Champions League thanks to the towering displays of Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney up front, and Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic at the back.
And even Liverpool's unlikely title challenge two seasons ago rested on the exceptional form of Xabi Alonso, Steven Gerrard and Torres.
City do not have that sort of individual ability. They have one borderline world-class player - Carlos Tevez (only borderline because of his damaging sulk reflex) - and of the rest only David Silva and Balotelli (if they get him) appear to have have the potential to get there. They certainly won't do it this season.
The rest are very good, but not elite, players. And many of their best performers last season - Bellamy, Johnson and Barry - could find themselves kicked to the kerb like Stephen Ireland last summer.
Given the paucity of squad places and the surfeit of players at Eastlands, you would think the last thing they need is to buy anyone else. But simply move Emmanuel Adebayor on and pay whatever it takes to get Torres, £50m? £100m? Who cares? Just pay it. City's owners are so rich they could pay £200m for the Spaniard safe in the knowledge that far from breaking the bank, such a fee would barely leave a dent.
Forget about the World Cup, where he was patently not fit. At 26, Torres is a sensational player entering his peak years. He has played three seasons in English football, during which time he has scored roughly two goals every three games.
He is searingly quick, bewilderingly skilful, deceptively strong and unerringly deadly - and a great team-mate by all accounts. He is a complete centre-forward.
Of course he has had injuries, and of course that is a concern. But City have the resources to take that risk.
And where Liverpool's lack of cover up front meant they often rushed Torres back, City can afford to get him 100 per cent fit before returning him to action.
There is nobody like a fit Torres.
He can be to City what Alan Shearer was to Blackburn Rovers in the mid-90s; the silver bullet turning a group of expensively-acquired individuals into a truly formidable team.
- Mario Balotelli
- Emmanuel Adebayor
- Fernando Torres
- Gareth Barry
- Manchester City
- Craig Bellamy
- James Milner