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Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini can shoot for the moon with bid for Franck Ribery
Published : 30 Jan 2010 18:41:16Rss feed
The Italian will confirm in a television interview on Sunday that he intends to honour his 3½-year deal, allaying the fears of fans who believed that his appointment was only a six-month stopgap solution. A key factor in his commitment is the promise from Sheikh Mansour that he will be given carte blanche to pursue whatever transfer target he deems fit. There will, however, be no last-minute Man City pyrotechnics over the next 48 hours as they stick fast to the conviction that there are no beneficial deals to be done in the January transfer window. The one outstanding piece of business to be completed is the poaching of winger Adam Johnson from Middlesbrough for a fee of up £18 million. To ask Mancini if he has the freedom to make another of City's audacious big-money transfer moves is to receive one of his quizzical smiles. 'Yes, of course,' he said. 'But not now.' Such a liberty, though, is not always so sacrosanct. Indeed, he contests a match on Sunday that vividly reflects both the blessing and the curse of the petrodollar. He needs only to glance across the Eastlands dugout at the squat, lugubrious figure of Portsmouth's Avram Grant to see a manager stripped of all autonomy and denied even the knowledge of which of his players are leaving. The chaotic misrule at Portsmouth first under Sulaiman Fahim, the man who so conscientiously fronted Mansour's takeover of City, and latterly by Ali Al-Faraj, has brought them to the cusp of relegation as well as rendering the positions of both Grant and chief executive Peter Storrie untenable. The hierarchy at City, by contrast, has rarely seemed more settled — because their ambitions have never been more limitless. Stability is sought by Abu Dhabi from Mancini and he is slowly beginning to provide it, improving his English by the week and looking for a property in Manchester to call his home. The natty City scarf that he has made his own is by no means a superficial expression of loyalty. You only had to study his reaction to last week's last-gasp defeat to Manchester United to realise how deeply he felt City's time-honoured frustrations. 'That night at Old Trafford I was very sorry for the supporters,' he said, solemnly. 'Myself and the players, we want to do well for them.' No wonder it has taken so little time for chants of his name to echo around the City of Manchester Stadium. Suddenly, the fans' Blue Moon anthem has acquired a portentousness to replace its usual tragicomic pathos. Mancini can — and, far more significantly, has the backing — to shoot for the moon. A key step in that process has been to assert his authority with an emphasis that belies his diffident demeanour. He has started by dispensing with the services of the mercurial Robinho, whom he made clear had no chance of starting for City regularly. The Brazilian, having been pictured last week carrying his laptop from the training ground, was back at Carrington on Friday morning to say goodbyes to his team-mates before leaving for Sao Paulo. The six-month loan deal that takes Robinho back to Santos, his hometown club, represents a shrewd piece of negotiation by City, who do not have to pay a penny towards his salary during that time. Mancini, while he made the right diplomatic noises about wanting the 26 year-old to return in the summer, disguised his satisfaction only thinly. Speaking also on behalf of chief executive Garry Cook and chairman Khaldoon Al-Mubarak, he said: 'We're very sorry about Robinho, because we liked him. But it is good also for him to be always in the first team. He has a World Cup.' Mancini's instinctive bracketing of himself with Cook and Al-Mubarak was intriguing. In only six weeks they have become a tight-knit triumvirate, with Cook, who has endured a spate of negative headlines over his ill-advised posturing, impressing upon Mancini that he will be given time to make the job work. Cook's long-term future has been the subject of rather more speculation, but the chairman is understood to have been furious at a newspaper report that his position was in doubt after a series of gaffes — not least declaring that City would soon be 'the biggest and best club in the world'. Cook may only have been saying what Mancini is beginning to think. Pressed on the gap he perceived between United and City in their Carling Cup semi-final, he said: 'Whether it is United and City, or Roma and Lazio, there is a great passion. But over the last few games, I see no difference. It is important for us to play our game like United.' The difference, he believed, lay only in the tirelessness of Wayne Rooney. Mancini affects to have a certain empathy with the United striker, having also, like him, been a formidable teenager. 'I was a big player,' he joked. 'It is the talent. You are born with the talent, then you work with it. You develop the right mentality.' It is the bedrock of a philosophy that, at Inter Milan and now at City, Mancini has brought swiftly to management.
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