Manchester City's forgotten stars: Highest-paid second team in history look to shine in Europe

02 December 2010 12:22
They wheeled them out again last night. Shay Given, Joelon Lescott, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Emmanuel Adebayor, the highest-paid second team in history.

Yes, the Europa League has become something of a shop window for Manchester City's forgotten stars and the transfer talk had started before a ball had been kicked against Salzburg.

Enlarge Shot at the big time: Mario Balotelli, the subject of transfer speculation with AC Milan, scores inside the first 20 minutes against Salzburg

Speculation was growing in Spain that Real Madrid are ready to make a move for Adebayor after discovering that Argentina international Gonzalo Higuain needs surgery on a herniated disc and will be out for three months.

The disgruntled Togo striker is determined to leave City and claimed last month that he thought a loan move to Juventus was in place when the transfer window opens in January. But the prospect of joining Madrid is an intriguing one, with Real boss Jose Mourinho determined to have a new striker in place by the time his side's Champions League campaign resumes on February 15.

Real or Juve? It's not a bad choice for a player whose future at City appears nonexistent following a series of rows with manager Roberto Mancini.

Adebayor has established himself as the most high-maintenance of Mancini's squad and will be on the move if the Italian has his way. Given, Wright-Phillips, Roque Santa Cruz and Wayne Bridge could well follow if City can strike the right deal with the right clubs.

Cold comfort: Mario Balotelli celebrates his strike

The biggest problem will be finding takers who are prepared to foot their massive wages with deals subsidised from Abu Dhabi - similar to Craig Bellamy's loan move to Cardiff earlier this season - probably the only option.

Given, Lescott and Wright-Phillips were restored to the starting line-up for the first time in a month last night in a competition that has provided their best hope of first-team action this season. None of them had been seen since the defeat to Lech Poznan in Poland, and neither had Bridge whose expected return from a hamstring injury was aborted after he limped out of training on Tuesday.

Adebayor's only action since Poland was a 20-second cameo as a substitite in the Manchester derby, and a place on the bench last night provided further proof of his deteriorating relationship with the manager

. For Santa Cruz, even the opportunity of Europa League football has been denied him after he was omitted from City's 25-man squad.

Enlarge Cool finish: Mario Balotelli scores his second goal

The Paraguayan is expected to be first out of the door in January after a frustrating 18-month stay. Not all the people being linked with a departure from Eastlands yesterday were players City want to lose as speculation resurfaced over the future of Mario Balotelli.

The volatile striker has done little to quell talk of a possible return to Italy with AC Milan. Balotelli said recently he was committed to City 'for sure until June', which was a curious statement considering he signed a five-year deal when he joined for £23million from Inter Milan a few months ago.

He has since played only a handful of games for City due to injury, and was photographed last month having dinner with AC Milan chief Adriano Galliani after flying home to watch the Milan derby. Galliano has confirmed he wants to sign a striker in January to replace the injured Filippo Inzaghi.

He was asked about Balotelli yesterday and comments from Zlatan Ibrahimovic that he would welcome the chance to be reunited with his former Inter team-mate at the San Siro.

Galliani said: 'I don't think Manchester City will sell as Mario has a five-year contract with them, but if they did, we'd be there. 'But if the Ibra-Balotelli partnership reforms it will certainly be at Milan.'

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Source: Daily_Mail

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