Sunday 17 December 2017

Manchester City to emulate spending habits of Barcelona and Real Madrid in bid to win Champions League

ROBERTO Mancini has said Manchester City will follow the example set by Barcelona and Real Madrid when it comes to the transfer market this summer by spending in areas that will directly improve their chances of winning the Champions League.

As expected Alex McLeish was sacked by Villa on Monday, just a day after the end of the Premier League season, with the club now working their way through a list of potential candidates.

An initial approach for Lambert remains likely although there are strong concerns at Villa that, ultimately, the Scot will not leave Norwich if he can gain the financial assurances he is after at Carrow Road.

Whether Hughes would be interested in moving to Villa Park also remains to be seen, given he has been in charge of Queens Park Rangers for no more than four months. Hughes arrived at Loftus Road promising to establish the club in the top flight and to help to rebuild them and his reputation would suffer if he left so soon for another management job.

Villa have shown previous interest in Hughes, and tried to hire him two years ago when Martin O’Neill suddenly quit. By then Hughes had agreed to join Fulham but stayed at Craven Cottage for just one season while Villa have gone through two seasons of turmoil with Gérard Houllier and McLeish both failing to make an impact.

There was speculation that Villa might move for Hughes after he quit Fulham last year but no approach was made. McLeish was given the job after Wigan Athletic’s Roberto Martínez turned it down and the club changed their mind about Steve McClaren. At that time Rafael Benítez was also pushing to be considered.

Lambert and Hughes are not the only names under consideration by Villa, with possibly three other candidates. Martínez could be approached again, while former Chelsea manager Claudio Ranieri is understood to be interested.

Other managers will also jostle for position with, it is believed, Avram Grant keen to return to England despite only recently joining Partizan Belgrade. However, it is unlikely Villa would be interested in the Israeli although an intriguing possibility could be the coach of Germany, Joachim Löw, who is looking for a job in club management. Another possible contender, the Croatia coach Slaven Bilic, has already agreed a deal to join the Russian club Lokomotiv Moscow but still, ultimately, wants to work in the Premier League.

Villa would like to recruit a hungry, young, manager who is committed to playing attractive football and willing to develop talent from the club’s academy. At the same time, however, a new manager would want a guarantee from the club’s owner, Randy Lerner, that he will make funds available to rebuild the squad who have struggled under McLeish.

Lerner is aware that his next managerial appointment is crucial given the growing unrest from the club’s supporters. Of the type of manager he wants to employ, Lambert and Martínez would fit the bill perfectly, as would Hughes, after the gamble to take McLeish from Birmingham City backfired so spectacularly.

Lambert signed a rolling contract at Norwich last June and the Canaries are determined to keep hold of the 42 year-old. If he did leave then compensation would be about £600,000.

Lambert’s head could be turned by the prospect of managing at a club with greater potential and resources and there has been tension over the budgets available to him at Norwich. The former Celtic midfielder, who has also managed at Wycombe and Colchester, guided Norwich to two successive promotions and comfortably secured Premier League safety this year.

Norwich, however, will fight to keep their highly-rated manager. David McNally, the club’s chief executive, said: “We would not welcome any inquiry for our football manager or any of the club’s football players. We’ll do everything we can and fight this as hard as we’ve ever fought.”

McLeish was dismissed on Monday morning by chief executive Paul Faulkner after a nightmare 11 months in which Villa only avoided relegation by two points. Faulkner and Lerner made their decision late on Sunday night after the 2-0 defeat at Norwich and McLeish met Faulkner at the club’s training ground, with Lerner remaining in the United States.

McLeish’s future has been uncertain for months but Lerner was given notice of just how unpopular the 53 year-old was in the 2-1 home defeat to Bolton last month. Lerner was in the stands and experienced first-hand the level of vitriol being directed at McLeish, who was a controversial appointment due to his past affiliations with Birmingham. McLeish had two years left on his contract and leaves with £2m compensation.

“We need to be clear and candid with ourselves and with supporters about what we have lacked in recent years,” Lerner said. “Compelling play and results that instil a sense of confidence that Villa is on the right track have been absent. The most immediate action that we can take is to look at our options in terms of bringing in a new manager who sees the club’s potential and embraces our collective expectations.”

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