Saturday, 6 August 2011

Wesley Sneijder linked with shock Manchester City move

Wesley Sneijder  
Wesley Sneijder
Reports in Italy suggest that Inter Milan and rumoured Manchester United target Wesley Sneijder could be on his way to Manchester City in a shock 36m euro deal.

The Dutch star is playing for Inter against AC Milan today in Beijing, but could then jet to Manchester to sign for the Blues, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport.

However, City are thought to have distanced themselves from the speculation.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Decision time looming for Manchester City man Shaun Wright-Phillips

Shaun Wright-Phillips 
Shaun Wright-Phillips
First Bolton, then Wigan, now Sunderland. If Shaun Wright-Phillips does decide to call time on his Manchester City career, he won’t be short of offers.

Wright-Phillips has largely been cast to the fringes since Roberto Mancini replaced Mark Hughes in December 2009, but there is no doubting the winger’s talent.

He has proved that much during City’s pre-season programme, scoring a couple of sweet long-range strikes in wins against Club America and Vancouver Whitecaps.

And when the Blues moved on to Dublin last weekend, he netted a classy volley to set up a 3-0 victory over a League of Ireland XI, before teeing up Adam Johnson for a late goal as Inter Milan were beaten by the same score.

Wright-Phillips’ joy at playing for City is obvious. “I’m working hard and I have no intention of going anywhere else,” he said recently.

But deep down, the winger – who turns 30 in October – knows that he may have to move on.

For although he made it on to the US tour – an achievement in itself given that Craig Bellamy, Emmanuel Adebayor, Wayne Bridge and Nedum Onuoha were all left at home – Wright-Phillips is unlikely to be a regular starter at the Eithad Stadium this season.

Mancini is fully aware of the Academy graduate’s feelings for the Blues. Paradoxically, Mancini feels that love for City may yet be the reason that Wright-Phillips has to move on.

“He has Manchester City in his blood, but he’s still a young guy and it’s not easy for me to leave him on the bench all the time,” Mancini said.

The indications are that if the right offer came in – for the club and the player – then the winger would be allowed to go.

A proposed loan move to Bolton fell through in January, although manager Owen Coyle has continued to be linked with a deal.

Coyle may be forced to step up his efforts to lure Wright-Phillips to the Reebok after South Korean Chung-Yong Lee and Tyrone Mears both suffered broken legs during pre-season.

Wigan chairman Dave Whelan publicly declared his interest in Wright-Phillips last month, while Sunderland assistant manager Eric Black did nothing to dampen speculation of a bid of their own on Wednesday.

Wright-Phillips' agent Wayne Lindsay told the Journal: “There has been an enquiry from Sunderland about Shaun.

“There is no secret that Manchester City are prepared to let him go if an offer came in and it was the right offer so I would guess it is now up to Sunderland whether to follow up that initial interest.”


Wright-Phillips has a year to run on the City contract he signed in August 2008, when he rejoined the club from Chelsea for £9m.

When he returned to the Blues, he said it felt like a homecoming. Despite being a Londoner by birth who was on Nottingham Forest’s books as a teenager, Wright-Phillips’ heart has long been at City.

Having joined the Blues at the age of 15, he became a trailblazer when the club’s youth set-up was restructured under the watch of Jim Cassell in the late 1990s.

When he made his debut as a substitute in a League Cup win at Burnley in August 1999, Wright-Phillips was the first graduate of the new Academy to make the senior team.

The relationship has not always run smoothly since. He could, perhaps, have handled his 2005 departure to Chelsea better. Having stated previously that he did not want to leave City, he then did a U-turn.

And after his return to Manchester, his decision to reject a new contract offer early in 2010 was exacerbated by his father Ian unwisely saying that City were ‘mugging him off and treating him like a youth-team player’.

Wright-Phillips, wisely, has decided since then to get his head down and work hard.

His attitude has impressed the demanding Mancini, but this has not been reflected in terms of starting appearances.

The winger has made only five Premier League starts since Mancini took over, none of them since a 1-1 draw against Blackburn last September.

Being left out of the 18-man matchday squad for May’s FA Cup final win over Stoke was, he acknowledged, a particularly difficult blow to take.

A man with the honour of having played for City in three different decades desperately wanted to be a part of the side that ended their 35-year wait for a trophy.

But even if the odds are against him becoming a Blues first-team regular again, he is not ready to give up just yet, as he revealed during the US tour.

“Since reporting back for training, I have really got my head down and given 100 per cent,” Wright-Phillips said. “I haven’t spoken to the manager. But it has gone well for me and I will never give up on City.”

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Roberto Mancini board battle for Samuel Eto’o

Roberto keeps fighting to continue spending  
Roberto keeps fighting to continue spending
Roberto Mancini is facing an uphill battle to convince City’s board to bring Samuel Eto’o to the Etihad Stadium in a straight swap for Carlos Tevez.

Argentinian striker Tevez, 27, was set to return to Carrington today – but has now been given extra time off and will be back on Monday following his post-Copa America break.

Blues officials value Tevez at £50million, and believe that he is worth significantly more than Inter Milan striker Eto’o, who turned 30 in March.

It is understood that the City board are extremely reluctant to consider a swap deal, particularly one that would see them receive a striker with a limited sell-on value.

The club hierarchy have also privately indicated their unhappiness at the prospect of doing business with Eto’o, who showed little enthusiasm when he was offered a move to Manchester in 2009.

Eto’o, then with Barcelona, exasperated Blues officials by dawdling over a contract offer worth a reputed £180,000-a-week after tax.

City got so sick of waiting for a response that chief executive Garry Cook made a public statement declaring that the club were pulling out of the deal.

Since then, Eto’o has declared an interest in moving to the Premier League – for what would be a final bumper contract before retirement – with Mancini interested in  a deal.

Inter, for their part, are keen to sign Tevez, who declared last month that he wanted to leave City. However, the Blues have yet to receive a bid, and see no urgency to sell if they do not receive an offer matching their valuation.

Mancini has not always seen eye-to-eye with City’s board on transfer policy, stating at the start of the summer that he wanted more control, and it is understood that this has led to tension behind the scenes.

But the club hierarchy have endeavoured to make it clear to him that they have to be more careful with their spending in order to ensure they fit in with UEFA’s pending financial fair play rules.

The rules, which will govern clubs playing in UEFA competitions, will allow clubs to lose a maximum of £38.5million over the next two seasons.

Clubs who miss that target, though, will escape sanctions – such as a European ban – if they can show both a downward trend when it comes to losses and that their overspending has been caused by commitments on wages and transfer fees made before June last year.

Those caveats do give a degree of leeway to City, who lost £121m in the 12 months up to May 31 last year – but still mean that it would be unwise to repeat the spending sprees of recent summers.

Meanwhile, new signing Sergio Aguero – who was not expected to make the starting line-up for Sunday’s Community Shield clash with neighbours United – was forced to miss an open training session at the Etihad Stadium yesterday due to a stomach bug.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Balotelli hit by team-mates' kipper prank

Mario Balotelli has been done up like a kipper by his Manchester City team-mates after they left rotting fish in the back of his car while the team went off on a pre-season tour.

Premier League - Balotelli kipper prank
The controversial Italian striker has wound up just about everyone in Manchester with his antics ever since arriving at the club last summer, which have included throwing darts at youth team players (because he was "bored"), racking up £10,000 of parking fines, inciting manager Roberto Mancini to throw a suitcase at him, and winding up Yaya Toure on the training ground
But The Sun reports that his fellow City stars got their own back by putting a sports bag full of kippers behind his car's passenger seat just before they all headed off to the US for a two-week training tour.
The 20-year-old returned to his car after returning to England - and was almost knocked out by the overpowering stench when he opened the door of his £150,000 Maserati.
"Mario had his head in his hands," the paper's source said. "The smell nearly made him sick. It was revolting.
"There were flies in the car and the leather seats in the back had rotting fish all over them."
The fishy reek is apparently so bad that the car is expected to be a write-off - not that the superstar will struggle to buy a replacement on his £100,000-a-week wages.
The prank could yet backfire on Balotelli's team-mates, however: the Italian is apparently determined to get his own back.
"He has absolutely no idea who is responsible as he has wound up so many of his team-mates over the past year," the Sun's source continued.
"It won't put an end to the pranks, though. He's already formulating plans for revenge."

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Yaya Toure: Manchester City on Red alert

RED LETTER DAY: Yaya Toure after his FA Cup goal against Manchester United  
RED LETTER DAY: Yaya Toure after his FA Cup goal against Manchester United
A smile creeps over Yaya Toure’s face as he’s asked about yet another trip to Wembley. He jumps in as soon as the famous stadium is mentioned.

“I like it there,” he says with a smirk, as flashbacks of winners against United and Stoke play in his head.

City will make their third trip to Wembley in less than four months when they line up against United in Sunday’s Community Shield.

If Toure stopped playing tomorrow his exploits in England’s national stadium alone would make him a City legend. Scoring the only goal in the FA Cup final to end a 35-year wait for a trophy ensured that.

But instead of setting his sights on a hat-trick of Wembley winners when the two halves of Manchester collide in north London on Sunday, Toure is more interested in laying down an early marker in the Premier League title race.

“If it is possible it would be fantastic to score a third at Wembley, but the most important thing is that the team win,” said Toure.

“There are other players who are more likely to score than me, but it does not matter as long as the team wins.

“We will have to be strong against United. We will have to be 100 per cent to have a chance against them because United are a fantastic team.

“United are very important, very strong and it will be very tough on Sunday.”

The Ivorian midfield enforcer added: “The most important thing is not that I score another goal there – it is that the whole team prove to our fans and everyone else that City are coming.

“We have to show United that we are here and we want to win the trophy for the fans. We have to make a statement from the start. We have the Premier League straight after United and then the Champions League draw.

“We meet United on Sunday and we will need to play very well to start the season off well.”

City’s summer has been dominated by the circus surrounding Carlos Tevez’s second transfer request.

Tevez saga

With a move to Brazilian side Corinthians dead until January at the earliest, the saga could yet drag on until the transfer window shuts on August 31.

But Toure is confident that, should the Argentine striker get his wish and engineer a move away from Manchester, the Blues will have more than enough firepower in their ranks to cope with his loss.

Roberto Mancini has given Edin Dzeko the chance to stake his claim, picking him from the start in four of the five pre-season games, while Sergio Aguero has arrived from Atletico Madrid on a £38m transfer.

And Toure pointed to the pair as evidence that City still have plenty of goals in the dressing room – with or without Tevez.

“We are getting some good players, important players, returning to their best,” added Toure. “Edin Dzeko is in good form, we have signed Aguero, who is a fantastic player, so we are getting better and better. Aguero is a fantastic player. He is so smart, so clever.”

Just like Wembley, Toure has fond memories of playing in the Champions League against the Reds. Playing as an emergency centre-half, he was part of the Barcelona team which beat United in Rome two years ago.

The 27-year-old is now looking forward to his first crack at the competition with City.

And while he insists qualifying for the Europe’s premier cup competition remains the priority next season, he admits he’s got a more than a sneaking suspicion that City will end the campaign with some more silverware.

“We are going to have to fight to show people that City are going all the way to the top,” said Toure. “The most important thing is you have to play 100 per cent.

“The club is signing players. We want to be in the top four again this year. We will have to work hard to do that and win a cup.  This is the first time we are playing in the Champions League and that is as amazing for the fans as it is for the players. We have to take it step by step.

“The league this year will be very hard and we will have to improve a lot, but then I think this will be the year for us.”

Monday, 1 August 2011

Inter Milan 0 Manchester City 3

ON TARGET: Mario Balotelli  
ON TARGET: Mario Balotelli
Manchester City's promising pre-season form continued against Inter Milan with the Blues running out comfortable winners in Dublin.

Mario Balotelli put City ahead on the stroke of half-time with a bullet header.

After the break Edin Dzeko - who had already had one effort controversially ruled out for offside - slotted the second before Adam Johnson scored the third after some fine work by Shaun Wright-Phillips.

City will now turn their focus to next Sunday's Community Shield clash with Manchester United.

Glimpse of future

Blues fans were treated to a brief glimpse into the future in this game.

It was a future in which Carlos Tevez had got his way and escaped Manchester, but it was also one where humbling Europe’s elite is the norm and not just a pre-season highlight.

And if this is what the future holds, then it can’t come soon enough.

After fielding a second string against an Airtricity League XI on Saturday, former Inter boss Roberto Mancini recalled the big guns as he finalised his plans for the small matter of another Wembley date with United on Sunday.

The game came too soon for Sergio Aguero, who last played in the Copa America 15 days ago, Gael Clichy wasn’t risked after picking up a slight knock and Tevez won’t be back at Carrington until Thursday – if at all.

But apart from that trio, the team picked to start at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium won’t be a million miles away from the one that walks out at Wembley in a week’s time.

And if the performance is in any way similar, the Dublin Super Cup won’t be the only silverware City pick up before the Premier League kick-off.

It was by no means a weak Inter team. Julio Cesar, Christian Chivu, Dejan Stankovic, Goran Pandev, Wesley Sneijder and Samuel Eto’o – the core of the side that finished second in Serie A last season – were all present and correct.

The Blues, however, were too strong, too quick and too well organised.

City could have been 2-0 up inside the first 20 minutes but on both occasions the linesman raised his flag to bring a premature end to the Poznan celebration.

And for all Edin Dzeko’s bustle and David Silva’s brilliance, the goal, when it came, was as simple as it was deserved.

It might have come sooner had Cesar not pulled off a wonderful save to stop Mario Balotelli’s fierce effort finding the top corner. But from the resulting corner Aleksander Kolarov swung the ball into the box and Balotelli rose highest to thump his header past his old team mate.

It was scant reward for a first half in which City had seven shots on target but it took just one in the second half to double the lead.

Silva, deliberate and dazzling throughout his 80 minutes, slid a simply wonderful pass through Inter’s static back four to allow Dzeko a simple finish. It was a timely reminder from the big Bosnian that Mancini doesn’t necessarily have to look elsewhere if he is forced to replace Tevez’s goals.

Johnson then tapped home the third in stoppage time after Shaun Wright-Phillips had done all the hard work.

City could yet meet Inter when the draw for the Champions League group stage is made in Monaco on August 25. If that strange twist of fate does occur, the three-time winners of Europe’s premier cup competition – and the last team to knock out standard-bearers Barcelona - won’t send shudders through the City dressing room.

In the match programme, Yaya Toure challenged City to match the standard set by his former employers during the club’s first season in the Champions League.

“We obviously have a way to go to match those teams but it is our aim,” he said. “But with the ambition the club have shown and the way we are improving as a group, I think other clubs are now starting to take notice of the new Manchester City.”

On this evidence, the day Europe’s heavy hitters are forced to sit up and take notice of the new team sat at the top table will come sooner rather than later.

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Life is tough for youngsters at Manchester City - Mee

Ben Mee
Mee has represented England at U-19, U-20 and U-21 levels
Burnley's on-loan defender Ben Mee says being at Manchester City can be frustrating for younger players.

The England Under-21 international has joined the Clarets on a season-long loan in a bid for first-team football.
The 21-year-old told BBC Radio Lancashire: "It's a frustrating being around the first team but never getting the chance to show what you can do.
"I've got two more year's on my contract at City, but I don't know what's going to happen."
Mee, who became Burnley's first summer signing, added: "I'm going to be 22 by the time this season finishes and I've been at City a long time.
"It's up to them what they plan on doing but I don't think they're going to stop buying players anytime soon."
Mee captained Man City to the FA Youth Cup title in 2008 with a 4-2 aggregate win over Chelsea
Mee is a product of Manchester City's academy but has made just one senior appearance - against West Brom in the Carling Cup in 2010.
But he impressed during a loan spell at Leicester last season, making 15 appearances.
"It's been like that for a couple of years but you've got to take those knocks and come back stronger.
"You've got to try and do your best like I did last year and hopefully will do this year."
Mee has been joined by his Manchester City team-mate Kieran Trippier who has also agreed a 12- month loan move to Turf Moor