Mancini set to unveil Vieira after veteran agrees to £150,000-a-week contract
MANCHESTER City hope to unveil Patrick Vieira, the former Arsenal captain, as Roberto Mancini's first signing of the January transfer window today after the 33-year-old agreed an 18-month contract at Eastlands worth about £150,000 a week.
Vieira arrived in Manchester yesterday for a medical and to complete the formalities of negotiating his personal terms after being informed by his previous manager, Jose Mourinho, that he would be allowed to leave Inter Milan on a free transfer if an appropriate suitor could be found.
The French international last played in the Premier League in 2005, winning the FA Cup with his last kick of a ball for Arsenal, before leaving for Juventus for around £15m.
A year later, following the Turin side's demotion to Serie B amid the fall-out from the calciopoli match-fixing scandal, Mancini signed Vieira for £7m. The pair won two Serie A titles before Mourinho replaced the Italian.
So great is the rapport between coach and player that Vieira is thought to be a contender to replace Kolo Toure, his erstwhile team-mate, as club captain at Eastlands.
Mancini has identified the need for more experience to bolster City's defence, distressingly porous until the Italian's arrival, despite seeing his side win all three games without conceding a goal since he replaced Mark Hughes last month. In Vieira, he believes, he has the steel to see off the challenge of Liverpool, Tottenham and Aston Villa to secure City's highest ever Premier League finish and qualify for the Champions League.
For his part, Vieira, who retains hope of being included in France coach Raymond Domenech's squad for next summer's World Cup finals, knows he must play first-team football if he is to go to South Africa.
Vieira has made just 12 appearances for Inter this season after finding himself behind Esteban Cambiasso, Dejan Stankovic, Thiago Motta and Sulley Muntari, the former Portsmouth player who remains a target for Tottenham, in Mourinho's plans.
"I wanted to go to the World Cup and I need playing time," Vieira said. "It is over, after a year in Turin and three and a half years in Milan. I have objectives and I cannot achieve them by staying at Inter, where I am not part of the coach's choice.
"What is important for me is to go to Manchester City, to show the coach that I am the same as I was during the period when he was at Inter. All this will help me get into the France team."
The Vieira who returns to the Premier League after five years away is a world away from the rampaging box-to-box midfielder sold by Arsene Wenger five years ago, though. His time in Italy has seen Vieira develop a more considered, economic style, and he is more likely to be paired with Gareth Barry than Nigel de Jong upon being reunited with Mancini.
Vieira no longer has the pace or stamina to dominate the play as he once did and Mancini is likely to cast him in the role made famous by the former Arsenal player's one-time international team-mate, Claude Makelele.
The Frenchman's arrival on a free transfer is likely to be the cheapest deal conducted by Mancini this month by some distance.
The Italian remains determined to sign at least two defenders, a full-back and a centre-back, while he may choose to reinforce his attacking options, with question marks lingering over the future of Robinho.
The Eastlands club have been consistently linked with Simon Kjaer, the Danish international at Palermo, although the Italian club's president Maurizio Zamparini last night insisted he would not allow the central defender to leave in the middle of the campaign.
"They are just rumours, I have not had any contact with anyone," Zamparini said. "Several clubs are interested in Kjaer, but for the time being we have not received any offers. For sure, he will remain with us until June."
Mancini is also believed to have been tracking Leonardo Bonucci, the Bari central defender rated at £6m, as well as Juventus' Italian international Giorgio Chiellini, and it is thought that both City and their neighbours Manchester United have both been sounded out about the possibility of signing Gary Cahill, of Bolton, for about £15m.
Maicon, the Brazilian international full-back Mancini took to Inter from Monaco during his time there, is unlikely to leave Italy, while his side feature in the Champions League, and Mancini is likely to wait until the summer before launching a £20m bid for the player. (© Daily Telegraph, London)