Thursday 17 August 2017

Mancini promises City can conquer the world

Ian Herbert

Roberto Mancini is not going quietly.

The Manchester City manager hosted quite possibly his last pre-match press conference in this season's Champions League yesterday, but used it to launch retaliatory strikes against Bayern Munich chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis, two arch critics of his club's spending whose words, he claimed, are born of fear about the force City are about to become.

Rummenigge's latest diatribe against City has persuaded Mancini to seek him out in Manchester this evening. However, it was De Laurentiis' malicious inference that City's owner Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan might use his petrodollars to fix the match between Villarreal and Napoli, on which City's progression to the knockout stage depends, which has clearly agitated him most.

"I can't think about this stupid situation," said Mancini, whose side must beat Bayern to stand any chance of progressing. "De Laurentiis has to respect Villarreal first because Villarreal are a serious club and every team who plays in the Champions League plays to win. Fortunately Sheikh Mansour is not Italian. He is a very good man."

City have higher priorities than these petty battles. Their most fundamental is the pursuit of a new chief executive, but suggestions that David Potts, the Bolton-born chief executive of Tesco's Asian business, is the man to take over are wide of the mark. Rumours were rife after Potts stood down from the retail chain. Attempts to sell Carlos Tevez also continue, but there has been no contact from Milan and there is still no willingness to release him on loan.

But it was the Napoli issue that preoccupied Mancini yesterday. Film producer De Laurentiis' slanderous inference of match-fixing -- "I can feel strange things going on, Princes and Sheikhs getting agitated. Sometimes you can guess what might be happening..." he said after his club had beaten City -- has clearly reinforced the manager's impression that everyone wants to see the City nouveaux dumped out. "Bayern do, too," Mancini said.

His tone was only mildly softer on the subject of Rummenigge, with whom Mancini would have collided during the German's three-year period with Internazionale, before 1987, and who demands that City be removed from the Champions League if they fail to comply with Uefa's financial fair play regime. "I don't understand Rummenigge's behaviour against Manchester City," Mancini said.

"For six months he talks against us every time for financial fair play and he continues to say he hopes Napoli go through to the second stage. I don't know what's different with us. I don't understand what's happening with Rummenigge. I will ask him."

It is City's misfortune to have encountered two strong clubs who view defeating them as something of a moral quest in their inaugural Champions League campaign which has seen them struggle to adapt.

Bayern posted a £1.1m profit last month in the same week that City disclosed losses of £197m and would cherish dumping Mancini into the Europa League.

The Germans arrived in Manchester well behind schedule and buffeted by an influenza bug which deprives them of Arjen Robben and Toni Kroos, with Thomas Muller and Mario Gomez both concerns.

And though coach Jupp Heynckes was more diplomatic about City's wealth -- "It's just about two teams fighting against each other on a sporting level" -- he will be desperate to kill off the prospect of meeting a City side acclimatised to Europe in the knockout stage.

Mancini would have found it easier to brush off the slights had his side looked worth the money in Europe and he seems short of a convincing explanation.

Two weeks ago he claimed City simply did not have a team to win the Champions League because Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern and Milan were all better and more experienced.

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Yet there was less resignation yesterday when it was suggested that it was his own side's mistakes, rather than the strength of Group A, which has left them with a mere 30pc chance of progressing.

"A team like us cannot lose two games out of five," he said. "We have players with experience in the Champions League, but not a group and for that reason we have made mistakes."

Mancini, who insists Kolo Toure did not make the anti-City comments which the French magazine 'So Foot' last night declared it had on tape, knows that Franck Ribery -- a player with eight goals this season and who destroyed Micah Richards in Munich -- will view tonight with relish. Richards is absent with groin trouble, though Pablo Zabaleta looked equally ineffectual in his stead in Napoli.

But as Mancini has said all along, everything could change if City can sneak through tonight. He is fascinated by the "strange" things this tournament can do and none would be greater than Villarreal putting five straight defeats behind them to record their first point of a dismal European campaign.

By the spring, City will be older, wiser. They may have another creative midfielder -- they have been lacking one in this campaign -- and a world-class centre-half is also on Mancini's wish list, even though, with Milan's Thiago Silva and Barcelona's Gerard Pique probably out of reach, it is hard to see where one will come from.

"I think every team is worried about Manchester City because Manchester City in the future could become one of the top clubs in the world," Mancini reflected. "If we go through it will be a big problem for the other teams. It is a big if. But never say never." (© Independent News Service).

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