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City stars out in cold

STEPHEN Ireland, Robinho and Craig Bellamy are expected to lead a £80m exodus from Manchester City this summer as Roberto Mancini, the manager, continues to reshape his squad with a view to mounting a sustained challenge for the Premier League title next season.

City are looking to offload up to 10 senior players on top of the four who have already left, with Stephen Ireland, Robinho, the Brazil forward, and Bellamy, the Wales striker, likely to be the most high-profile departures in the planned overhaul.

Everton have made a tentative inquiry about Ireland, but City have yet to receive any offers for the midfield player, who endured a dramatic fall from grace last season having been named the club's Player of the Year in the 2008-09 campaign. City value Ireland at £15m.

AC Milan are thought to be weighing up a move for Robinho as a possible replacement for Ronaldinho, his compatriot, who was reported yesterday to have verbally accepted an offer to play for Flamengo in Brazil.

Harry Redknapp, the Tottenham Hotspur manager, wants to sign Bellamy, in addition to Micah Richards, the England defender and his City team-mate, and hopes to make some progress on that front in the next fortnight.

Although Tottenham's immediate priority is attempting to secure the signing of Joe Cole, the England winger who is a free agent after being released by Chelsea, the North London club are expected to meet City officials in New York next week, when the clubs will be competing in a mini tournament with Sporting and the New York Red Bulls as part of their pre-season preparations.


City are thought to be reluctant to sell Bellamy to a rival for a Champions League spot, but there is interest in the forward from elsewhere with David Moyes, the Everton manager, believed to be keen to take the Welshman to Goodison Park.

City have lavished £60m this summer on David Silva, the Spain winger, Yaya Toure, the Ivory Coast midfield player, and Jerome Boateng, the Germany defender, and aim to sign another three or four players before the close of the transfer window in a spending spree that could easily surpass the £160m mark.

But City hope to recoup about half that expected outlay through player sales and free up space on the wage bill, even though some of those they are open to selling are tied to lucrative, long-term contracts.

City enjoyed considerable success offloading players last summer, when almost 20 were shipped out permanently or on loan.

In addition to Robinho, Bellamy and Richards, City will listen to offers for Ireland, Roque Santa Cruz, Jo, Nedum Onuoha, Felipe Caicedo, Javier Garrido and possibly Shaun Wright-Phillips, but Michael Johnson, the midfield player, will be staying. Martin Petrov, Valeri Bojinov, Benjani Mwaruwari and Sylvinho have left.

Although City might realistically have to take a hit of up to £20m on Robinho, Santa Cruz and Bellamy -- who cost a combined fee of £60.5m -- such a loss could potentially be offset by the sale of players such as Ireland, Richards and Onuoha.


Sunderland have held talks with City about taking Onuoha, the defender, and West Ham United and Fulham have inquired about Caicedo, the striker.

Real Sociedad's attempts to sign Jo on a season-long loan were rebuffed, although the Spanish club have since returned to the table. Marseille have a lingering interest in Santa Cruz, the Paraguay striker.

Wright-Phillips is more likely to stay than leave, but the England winger, whose existing £65,000-a-week contract has two years to run, won't be offered the new deal he seeks.

City were yesterday given fresh grounds for encouragement in their attempt to sign James Milner when Martin O'Neill, the Aston Villa manager, suggested he would struggle to keep hold of the England midfield player if he asked to leave.

"Eventually if players do want to leave the football club, or any football club for that matter, then it becomes more difficult than ever before (to keep them)," O'Neill said.