Man City’s ‘iconic’ goal a reminder of how Txiki Begiristain has put contractual mistakes behind him – Dominic Farrell

For each opponent, you have a target that stands out above all others.

QPR, well that’s obvious. For Leicester, it’s the lightning bolt of Vincent Kompany. Southampton remember Georgi Kinkladze’s brilliant left boot. For Burnley, choose from approximately 37 Shaun Goater efforts.

When Fulham take to the pitch at the Etihad Stadium to take on Manchester City in the fourth round of the FA Cup on Saturday, many fans will already have fondly remembered when the west London side visited almost eight years ago.

No, we’re not talking about Yaya Toure’s thunderous long-range shot to complete a hat-trick in the 5-0 victory. Or Fernandinho thundering one into the top corner as he walks away from goal. Where is the fun in that?

We’re talking about a goal that is the polar opposite of such feats in almost every way.

Tell me a two-yard prick into an empty goal can’t be beautiful and I’ll show you Martin Demichelis’ goal against Fulham.

The goal counted for very little: it was already 4-0 by the 88th minute. It was all about aesthetics.

Stevan Jovetic was intervened down the right channel by Fernandinho after Fulham failed to clear a set piece and his cross was partially saved by goalkeeper David Stockdale.

The rebound slipped past Demichelis, unmarked and laconic at the far post. No rhythm on the ball? No problem, Martin wasn’t going to go on too long.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 11: Martin Demichelis of Manchester City poses with the trophy at the end of the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and West Ham United at the Etihad Stadium on May 11, 2014 in Manchester, England.
Martin Demichelis became a key member of City’s title chase in 2013/14.

In fact, it almost caught him. From such close range, Demichelis dribbled the ball home at such a glacial pace that he was able to nonchalantly raise his arm in celebration before his shot crossed the line and barely grazed the net.

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That arm in the air from the ponytailed central veteran was truly the deciding factor: the moment that sealed Demichelis’s progress from hopeless hapless to unlikely cult hero in the eyes of City’s faithful.

A Manuel Pellegrini favorite from their time together at River Plate and Malaga, Demichelis arrived from Atletico Madrid for £4.2m in September 2013 and initially seemed unsurprisingly a 32-year-old thrown into the Premier League turmoil. League for the first time in his career to watch.

He was an oddity with dodgy hair, but after the turn of the year, Demichelis’s enduring qualities, particularly his ability to read the game and calmly build the game, saw him play with ever-increasing authority.

The season ended with Demichelis as Vincent Kompany’s first-choice partner, running past a cheery South Stand holding the Premier League trophy aloft. He then started for Argentina in the World Cup final.

Even so, it is impossible to imagine City making a signing like Demichelis today. Director of football Txiki Begiristain was early in his tenure and perhaps couldn’t resist a concession to Pellegrini on one of his favourites.

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The decision was vindicated by the 2013/14 title win and Demichelis continued his impressive form the following season.

It was a good job, given Eliaquim Mangala’s travails after a big-money move from Porto went terribly to the pot. It surely wasn’t the plan to call Demichelis up in 31 Premier League games and seven Champions League games that year.

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That should have been it, but he earned the dubious reward of a new contract. His compatriot Nicol√°s Otamendi joined the team and was only slightly less accident prone than Mangala.

So, again, Demichelis played. For 2015/16, he was a fraction slower and that was a punishing drop for not being particularly fast to begin with. A teenage Marcus Rashford gutted him in the Manchester derby as his City career limped to an unsatisfying end.

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Those were the other Demichelis memories that came back this week, as City signed another River man in Julian Alvarez, a 22-year-old striker with his best years ahead of him, and leveled with academy standouts James McAtee, Josh Wilson- Esbrand. and Oscar Bobb.

The football operation that Begiristain oversees today always has the big picture and the years ahead in mind. Transfers and contract extensions like Demichelis’s – so reactive and short-lived – feel like a relic of the club’s past.

Still, we will always have Fulham. Anyone can score a bunt from two yards out, but no one has done it as easily as Martin Demichelis.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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