City set for massive spending spree
MANCHESTER City are monitoring Angel di Maria and Oscar Cardozo, the coveted Benfica players, as they weigh up their options before a spending spree that could rival Real Madrid's extraordinary £250m outlay last summer.
City have two transfer strategies, one for if they qualify for the Champions League, the other in the event that they miss out on fourth place in the Premier League. They are busy laying the groundwork for both eventualities in the hope of gaining a significant head-start in the transfer market before a critical summer for the club.
Two lists of potential signings have been drawn up and are being modified, with a number of players featuring on both, although City accept that the prospect of landing some of their more ambitious targets is likely to be dependent on whether they have Champions League football to offer.
Last year, City missed out on Kaka, the Brazil forward who left AC Milan for Real Madrid, and John Terry, the Chelsea captain, as well as pulling the plug on a prospective deal for Samuel Eto'o, then at Barcelona. City, though, remain firmly committed to signing at least one "global superstar."
They have been strongly linked with moves for Liverpool's Fernando Torres, for whom a bid seems inevitable, and Cesc Fabregas of Arsenal, but while Alex Ferguson talked last week about City's spending power being so great that they can "buy another team," there will be no scattergun policy.
The uncertainty over Roberto Mancini's future as manager is unlikely to cloud thinking either, although the Italian has maintained that he is confident he will be in charge next season if the club finish fourth.
About a dozen players could leave to make way for arrivals, with the futures of Robinho, Stephen Ireland, Martin Petrov, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Roque Santa Cruz, Patrick Vieira, Javier Garrido, Sylvinho, Felipe Caicedo, Benjani Mwaruwari and Michael Johnson all under threat.
It is uncertain whether firm bids will be made for Di Maria and Cardozo, but both have been scouted intensively and are figuring prominently in the club's thoughts, although with a combined release clause of £90m they will not come cheap, especially if both enjoy productive World Cups this summer.
Di Maria, the Argentina winger, has attracted attention from most of Europe's leading clubs. Inter and Chelsea are interested, while United were reported to have had a bid for the 22-year-old rejected in December.
Cardozo (26), a Paraguay team-mate of Santa Cruz, has had a remarkable season, scoring 33 times in 43 games for his club. Competition for the 6ft 4in striker is also likely to be fierce.
"Di Maria and Cardozo are two excellent players, very strong in their respective positions, and hence highly rated," Mike Rigg, the City technical director, said. "It is logical, there is no need to hide it, that a club like Manchester City have to be attentive to players with such potential, who catch the interest of clubs worldwide."
An £11m deal to sign Jerome Boateng, the Hamburg defender, has been lined up, while moves for Mesut Ozil, the Werder Bremen attacking midfield player, Mirko Vucinic, the Roma forward, and Leonardo Bonucci, of Bari, are under firm consideration.
City resume their hunt for fourth place on Saturday when they travel to the Emirates Stadium to face Arsenal while Tottenham Hotspur, their main rivals for the position, play United at Old Trafford the same day. (© The Times, London)