Man City gearing up for ruthless summer cull of underachieving stars
Manchester City are prepared to offload as many as six of the team who helped win the Premier League title last season as the club's hierarchy lose patience with an under-performing squad.
While the fate of Manuel Pellegrini as manager will be decided when Khaldoon al Mubarak, the chairman, conducts an inquest in Abu Dhabi at the end of the season, the likes of Yaya Toure, Samir Nasri, Edin Dzeko, Gael Clichy, Aleksandar Kolarov and Stevan Jovetic could all be sold after falling short of expectations this season.
With Frank Lampard committed to leaving in July to begin his Major League Soccer career with New York City FC, and James Milner expected to leave on a free transfer, most likely to Liverpool, the summer rebuilding work will be wholesale.
But, although Pellegrini's grip on his position becomes weaker with every defeat - the 4-2 loss against Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday was City's eighth defeat this year - senior figures at the club believe that the Chilean has been let down by some of his most high-profile players.
While that may ultimately be judged as a failing of the manager's motivational skills, there is now a determination to clear out the club's failing big earners and recruit younger and hungrier replacements.
Efforts are being made to reduce the average age of the City squad, with Wolfsburg's Kevin De Bruyne (23), Juventus's Paul Pogba (22), Liverpool's Raheem Sterling (20) and Everton's Ross Barkley (21) all summer targets.
A failure to qualify for the Champions League would prove a stern blow to City's hopes of attracting their top targets and also mean the club would miss out on prize-money of approximately £50million.
However, with the club introducing incentivised contracts over the past two years to ensure lower basic salaries are topped up with potentially lucrative bonuses, selling the likes of Toure, Nasri and Dzeko would not involve buying clubs having to pay the huge wages that once made it difficult for City to part with players such as Robinho, Wayne Bridge and Emmanuel Adebayor.
Interest from Inter Milan could prompt City to part with Toure, who is 32 next month, despite the likelihood of the midfield already likely to be depleted by the departures of Milner and Lampard.
The repeated failure of Nasri and Dzeko to perform has also made the two forward players vulnerable to being sold, with Dzeko, in particular, generating interest, from Germany and Italy.
Vincent Kompany's indifferent form, and his recurring problem with muscle injuries, has led to concerns over his long-term prospects, but it is understood that there are no plans to sell the 29-year-old captain.
City have received inquiries from Italian clubs about former Fiorentina forward Jovetic, and former City manager Roberto Mancini is keen to take Kolarov to Inter Milan. Clichy's poor season has left question marks over the Frenchman's future, even though Kolarov is likely to depart, potentially leaving the club requiring two new left-backs.
City must bounce back from a derby defeat which goalkeeper Joe Hart admitted was humiliating.
"That was one of my worst in a Manchester City shirt," he said. "It's hard to take. We let ourselves down and we let our supporters down, but there are six games to go and they are so big for us. It's essential to try and finish third. We've got to get our heads down and win these massive games."
The defeat was City's eighth in 17 games in 2015 and their fourth in succession on the road in the Premier League. But Hart admitted that he was baffled by the form slump which has left Pellegrini under increasing pressure.
"It would be easier to win games if I knew what was wrong with us but we've played well and been unfortunate in some games," Hart said. "Not many teams have put us to the sword like United did. They know what they are doing, they took their chances. I didn't have an overly busy day but United took their chances. I'm hurting from this defeat and there's a lot of emotion running through me, but we'll think about it and we'll go again." (© Daily Telegraph, London)