Carlos Tevez launched himself back into training yesterday with a performance which suggested he is a very strong contender for Manchester City's FA Cup final team, despite the latest evidence of his frayed relationship with the club's manager, Roberto Mancini, on Tuesday night.
For the second time in a week, Tevez was a dominant figure in a 10-a-side game at City's Carrington training ground yesterday, scoring twice and linking well with Mario Balotelli in a training session which involved Tuesday's substitutes and those not in the squad which beat Tottenham. Mancini implied after the Premier League win over Spurs, which took City into the Champions League next season, that Tevez's place in the starting line-up against Stoke City was in doubt after his first 15 minutes of game time following a hamstring injury. But Tevez is desperate to feature in the final and, though the club accept that he will probably leave this summer, the prospect of having him available to face Tony Pulis's in-form side may be irresistible.
There was a frustration in some quarters at City yesterday that Tevez's touchline conduct had overshadowed a key moment in the club's progression, but there is an increasing sense around Eastlands that there is now nothing to fear about life without him. The sale of Tevez to a Premier League rival, for instance, is a move which would now be tolerated in a way which has not been amid City's two-and-a-half-season scramble to gain a place among the European elite. A Tevez move to Chelsea would be considered where mooted moves for Craig Bellamy and Shay Given to other top-flight sides challenging for the top four have not been during the completion of the "first phase" of City's development.
Mancini's concerns are far broader than any single act of dissent from Tevez. Though his defensively astute side will be set up to acquit themselves well in Europe against Continental sides who offer less power and pace, his concern is that he will lack the squad simultaneously to maintain a strong challenge on the home front. In short, City could become like Rafael Benitez's Liverpool – at their best on the Continent but labouring to maintain Champions League status.
City, whose first major challenge could come in August's Champions League qualifying round, with Bayern Munich and Anderlecht among those on course to feature in it, also happen to be entering the elite just as Uefa begins moves to implement the Financial Fair Play regime, limiting clubs' losses to no more than £13m a year from 2013. City's last results showed losses of £133m.
The Independent revealed last month that Uefa will begin the build-up to FFP this autumn by asking around 20 clubs who are at risk of being in breach of the rules to allow their officials to start shadowing them. City are not aware of any impending request but are keen to comply as fully as they can as they seek to drive their losses down in line with the new regime. Uefa is also developing the IT software programme which clubs will be asked to use to provide financial information, some of it otherwise confidential, to enable Uefa to know exactly what the financial goings on at a club are.
Appendix 11 of the FFP regulations allows for financial trends, rather than pure losses, to be taken into account so a club moving towards £13m and projecting a break-even a few years into the future will be looked upon more favourably. But City have been working since the January transfer window to remove from their squad some of those who were hired on high wages to help City get to this position but are not longer deemed to be of use.
Loan players Emmanuel Adebayor – who will almost certainly be returned on his £165,000-a-week wages by Real Madrid, Roque Santa Cruz, Craig Bellamy, Wayne Bridge, Nedum Onuoha and Felipe Caicedo all need to be moved on, while Shaun Wright-Phillips and Shay Given are likely to be sold and Patrick Vieira may be preparing to retire. Udinese's right-sided forward Alexis Sanchez is the first player City may bring in, with Gary Cahill another possible target.
One of the few players to have survived the long journey, Micah Richards, has flourished in the past season and he reflected yesterday on the bad times and how the sceptics had affected players. "A lot of people were putting us down and saying we weren't good enough to reach the Champions League but we have proved people wrong," Richards said.
"We are not stupid. We hear what people say. They are always having a go at us for spending money but look, it's worked."
Richards, whom Mancini values, has only one year left on his contract, though City have yet to give him a new one. "There have been talks about a new contract but I am just trying to do well in each game. I am always happy to be at City," Richards said. "It's my first club and it's the club for me. As long as the club want me I want to be here."Reuse content