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Every club has its cult heroes, players that the fans loved, created chants for, and reminisce about long after their time at the club has come to an end. These players aren't always the best players to have played for your club and can often be a one-season wonder or someone that simply left a lasting mark on your beloved club. Either way, cult heroes are still talked about by fans of the clubs they played for today and their legacies will be passed on generation to generation.
Manchester City, like so many other clubs, have their fair share of cult heroes and we're going to talk about a selection of them in this article. Before City established themselves as a Premier League powerhouse they were a bit of a yoyo club, dropping down as low as League One during the Premier League era, but even when the bad times were upon them they still produced a number of unforgettable cult heroes.
Amazingly this former Manchester United youngster would go on to become a Manchester City legend during the later 1990s and early 2000s. The Bermudan striker left United without playing a senior game and impressed at Rotherham United where he scored 70 league goals in 209 appearances before making the move to Bristol City in 1996. In 2-years at the Bristol club, Goater netted 40 goals in 75 league games and in 1998 earned a move to Manchester City.
In 5-years at City, Goater scored 84 league goals in 184 appearances but the fans weren't too impressed with him early on, yet the striker soon had them chanting his name. City were struggling in the 3rd tier of English football upon the Bermundan's arrival but his goals helped the club achieve promotion, making him a fans favourite. Goater continued his goalscoring exploits in the Championship and his 29 goals propelled City back into the top flight of English football, ensuring his place in City fans' memories for the rest of their days.
Algerian international Ali Benarbia was only at Manchester City for 2-years but the creative midfielder certainly left his mark on the club. Benarbia had played for Monaco, Bordeaux and PSG in Ligue 1 before signing for City in his early 30s on a free transfer. Then City boss Kevin Keegan had been a fan of the midfielder during his time in charge of Newcastle United, with the Algerian scoring twice for Monaco against his Magpies side.
Benarbia became an instant hit in the Championship, covering for the injured Eyal Berkovic. The Algerian's vision and skill set him apart from anyone in the 2nd tier and he allowed City to play faster, more attacking football which lead to promotion back to the Premier League. Ali earned the captaincy at City but struggled to adapt to the pace and strength of the Premier League and in 2003 the midfielder announced his retirement after making 71 appearances in the league for City, scoring 11 goals.
Despite the diminutive Georgian being considered one of the best players to play for Manchester City, his time at the club involved two relegations and is considered one of the darker periods in the club's history. Kinkladze arrived from Dinamo Tbilisi in 1995 and struggled with homesickness early on, despite quickly establishing himself as a fans' favourite. Known for his mazy dribbles and ability to create goals, Kinkladze thrilled City fans during his time at the club, scoring 20 league goals in 106 appearances.
The Georgian international stuck with City when they were relegated in 1996 but found himself out of favour under new manager Joe Royal who viewed the attacking midfielder as a luxury City couldn't afford in a relegation battle. Following City's next relegation Kinkladze earned a move to Dutch giants Ajax for £5m but will forever be remembered by City fans for being a bright spark in an otherwise bleak time for the club.
Islandic goalkeeper Arni Arason didn't play a single league game for Manchester City but will forever be remembered for his part in City's famous 4-3 win over Tottenham Hotspur in the FA Cup. Arason was already an Icelandic international by the time he joined Manchester City, making his name at Norwegian club Rosenborg. Brought in as an understudy to David James, Arason failed to break into the City first team and his time at the club was brief.
However, Arason put in a great performance during City's 4-3 FA Cup win over Spurs, producing key saves when City were 3-1 down and providing the catalyst for their eventual comeback. The Icelandic international made saves from Christian Ziege and Gustavo Poyet, saves which cemented his place in the hearts and minds of City fans. Arason moved to Valerenga in 2004 in order to gain the first-team football needed to maintain his position in the Icelandic national team.
Danny Tiatto arrived at City from Swiss side Baden following an impressive loan spell at Stoke. The left-back/winger didn't make an immediate impact when he signed for Manchester City but endeared himself to the fans through his hard work and tenacity. The Australian played an important role in City's promotion to the Premier League 1999/00 and despite the club getting relegated back to the Championship, Tiatto's performances stood out.
Tiatto played 139 league games for City and scored 3 goals but his last two seasons at the club were marred by injuries leading to the Australian international moving to Leicester City in 2004 where he regained his best form and even went on to earn the captaincy. Tiatto will always be remembered by the City faithful for his consistency during an inconsistent time and for his attitude on the pitch which could never be questioned. The Australian only cost £300k and played more games for Manchester City than any other club in his long career, through promotions and relegations, and fondly remembers his time at the club.