Sport | Football

Man City target world class centre-half

Time running out for boss Mancini, who is also in the market for Italian midfielder De Rossi

  • By Mark Ogden, Telegraph Group Limited, London 2012
  • Published: 10:30 August 29, 2012
  • Gulf News

Italy v Paraguay
  • Image Credit: AP
  • Italian international Daniele De Rossi is wanted by Manchester City.

Manchester: Roberto Mancini is aiming to sign a world-class centre-half and make a final attempt to lure Daniele De Rossi to Manchester City before Friday’s transfer deadline. With City due to complete the £5 million signing of Swansea winger Scott Sinclair within 24 hours following the £10 million sale of Adam Johnson to Sunderland.

Mancini has pinpointed a ball-playing central defender as the priority before the transfer window closes on Friday night. Having seen his team concede two goals in each of their last four competitive fixtures, Mancini is determined to secure defensive reinforcements - an issue the Italian identified during talks over transfer strategy with the hierarchy at the end of last season. Reports in Italy on Monday claimed the club had discussions with Fiorentina over a possible £12 million deal for 19-year-old Serbia defender Matija Nastasic, with Stefan Savic moving to the Italian club as part of the transfer.

Javi Garcia, the pounds £22 million-rated Benfica defensive midfielder who can also play at centre-half, was watched by City at the weekend. The player was also scouted by Mancini’s assistant, David Platt, last season. But while Mancini is an admirer of the Arsenal captain Thomas Vermaelen, a move for the Belgian has been ruled out because of the excessive cost and difficulty of persuading Arsene Wenger to part with another of his leading players.

Similarly, efforts to sign Athletic Bilbao’s Javi Martinez have stalled because of the Spanish club’s euros £40 million (31.7 million) valuation of the player. Attempts to persuade Liverpool to sell Daniel Agger have also proved unsuccessful, with City refusing to raise July's £20 million offer closer to Anfield club’s £30 million valuation. Brian Marwood, City’s football administrator, is understood to be working on efforts to recruit a central defender this week, however. A renewed attempt to persuade Roma to sell De Rossi is expected before the window closes.

The 29-year-old Italy midfielder, who performed at centre-half for his country during Euro 2012, went public last week with his insistence that he has not asked to leave Roma. But Mancini believes that De Rossi remains open to a move to Manchester, with his carefully-worded comments last week giving the City manager the confidence that a breakthrough could come this week. With Johnson and Emmanuel Adebayor, who left City for Tottenham last week, off the wage bill at the Etihad Stadium, the club are in a position to move swiftly this week in order to secure their targets.

Roque Santa Cruz’s likely departure on loan to either Real Betis or Malaga will further enhance their ability to add new signings to the payroll. Despite being widely expected to leave City this summer following a turbulent campaign at the Etihad last season, however, Carlos Tevez will remain at the club beyond the transfer deadline. The Argentine has impressed Mancini with his commitment since returning to pre-season training, with Tevez - who scored in Sunday’s 2-2 draw at Liverpool - admitting over the weekend that he had shed just over a stone in weight since the end of last season. With Sergio Aguero poised to be sidelined for a month with a knee injury, Tevez has become a key figure in Mancini’s plans and midfielder Nigel de Jong believes that the 28 year-old’s new slimline figure is paying off on the pitch.

“Yes, he looks quite slim now,” De Jong said. “It’s always hard to get him off the ball, but I’d rather have a slim Tevez than one with a belly. But as long as he keeps scoring goals, for me it’s OK. At the moment, he is on fire.” With his previously fractious relationship with Mancini at its healthiest since the Italian succeeded Mark Hughes as manager in December 2009, Tevez admitted at the weekend that he is now prepared to consider extending his stay at City beyond his contract, which expires in June 2015.

At this stage, however, there are understood to be no plans to discuss a new deal with the former Manchester United forward until next summer at the earliest, when he will enter the final 12 months of his contract. Having often expressed a desire to return to South America at the end of his City contract, it is unclear as to whether Tevez will be prepared to commit to an extended stay in Manchester should the offer be presented.

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