Sven Goran Eriksson will place a shopping list of players before the Manchester City owner, Thaksin Shinawatra, when the two men finally meet in Manchester tomorrow, on an occasion which might dictate whether the Swede has a future at the club.
Eriksson's vision for the future is clearly shaped by his Brazilian contacts and by his experience as England manager, with Peter Crouch and Aaron Lennon, both favoured by the Swede during his tenure at the FA, believed to be among those he would covet now. Eriksson's closeness to the current Brazil manager, Dunga, whom he recruited from Pisa for the Fiorentina midfield in 1988, led him to purchase Elano last summer and the same contact has delivered another Brazilian, the CSKA Moscow player Joao Alves de Assis Silva (known as Jo), to a place near the top of his list – though a work permit may be difficult because of his solitary international cap.
Jo's £8m-rated team-mate and countryman Daniel Carvalho is also highly rated by Eriksson and will be on the list Thaksin will be presented with when he meets his manager at Eastlands after City's last home game of the season against Fulham. But the question of whether Ronaldinho might also swell the Brazilian ranks remains one of much conjecture.
The view within the club is that purchasing a player Eriksson admires immensely would be to the detriment of his desire to reinforce in many departments because the £40m-£50m fee, including wages, would blow the entire kitty Thaksin is ready to provide. There is also a feeling agents, aware of Thaksin's considerable fortune and minimal football know-how, are looking to capitalise by shipping him in.
But Eriksson, who has not spoken to the Thai since last month and has several players on his list of whom the owner is not aware, might well be told that Thaksin is intent on buying a superstar like Ronaldinho to fill Eastlands. City's indifferent attendances have been as much a source of frustration to him as recent results.
Noises from Italy certainly suggest that his arrival is a possibility, even though the probable absence of Champions League football at City in the next two years would appear a deterrent to the 28-year-old.
Ronaldinho is understood to have told team-mates that he may be leaving Barcelona for City and one source has suggested that, despite the player's preference for Milan, the Italian side are unlikely, in the final reckoning, to be willing to match his Barcelona salary of €10m (£7.97m) a year. If, as the source expected, the Italians ultimately pull out, City would be the only viable alternative.
Sources have suggested that Barcelona are also desperate to offload Thierry Henry if they can recoup anywhere near the £16m they paid Arsenal for him. With a general feeling that Ronaldinho may want some of his former team-mates from Barcelona with him at City, this has raised the notion of both being at City – though that would seem a financial impossibility.
Thaksin's acolytes certainly have been in close contact with the agent Pini Zahavi and and Roberto de Assis, Ronaldinho's brother and agent, who was entertained at City three weeks ago. Though Thaksin, away in Bangkok fighting corruption charges, is understood to have been a step removed, Eriksson said yesterday that he believed Thaksin's aides at City certainly spoke for him.
Thaksin has not demonstrated, in the itinerary for his Manchester visit this weekend, that he is intent on smoothing things over with Eriksson, having failed to dispel rumours last week that he might be prepared to remove him in favour of the Portugal national team coach Luiz Felipe Scolari – a Brazilian well acquainted with Ronaldinho, as well as others on the City shopping list. Thaksin's expected arrival yesterday was put back until tomorrow and he will leave Manchester on Sunday, having watched the Fulham match and completed a series of meetings.
But any attempt on his part to foist Ronaldinho on Eriksson at the expense of the breadth of players the manager considers necessary is likely to be met with short shrift. The Swede insisted last week that decisions on who should or should not be signed belonged to him. "Nobody will come here unless I have given the green light," he said. "It's not an issue at Manchester City." He has also dismissed the notion of buying a global superstar to fill the stadium as folly.
Eriksson admitted he remains unclear how much money Thaksin is prepared to make available to him, though the Thai has already cautioned against the assumption that there will be a bottomless pit. "We can't talk to players yet but we can talk to agents to see what's going to happen," Eriksson said. "Because of [Thaksin's] business in Thailand it's been difficult to talk to him and see him. I want to speak to him, of course I do." On the question of whom he might sign, Eriksson would only say he was ambitious. "We have a very good team but if we want to go one step further we have to take in world-class players," he said.
The City manager revealed that it was possible that Micah Richards may not play for the club again this season. He begins light training next week and could struggle to recover from surgery on his knee in time to feature.
Sven's men: City's potential buys
Jo, CSKA Moscow £20m
City first bid for the player in January and, though he recently extended his contract with the Russian side to 2011, the CSKA president Yevgeny Giner is understood to be ready to part with him for €25m (£20m). The player's agent Marcelo Dijan claimed yesterday that no bid has been lodged but that things "might happen."
Aaron Lennon, Tottenham Hotspur £10m
Juande Ramos is said to be uncertain about whether the ex-Leeds player has a future at White Hart Lane. Liverpool and Newcastle have been linked but Eriksson would be interested in a player he took to the 2006 World Cup and used. Attractive with chances of signing Theo Walcott fading.
Peter Crouch, Liverpool £9m
Another player Eriksson admired in his England management days has always been high on his list of targets. A striker is arguably City's greatest need, since none of those purchased has delivered.
Ronaldinho, Barcelona £40m-£50m
Milan look the Brazilian's most likely destination. Owner Silvio Berlusconi, asked if there was a chance for him to join the Serie A club, said: "Absolutely." But there have been doubts about the Italians' ability to buy. A player Eriksson would like, but not at the expense of being denied others.Reuse content