Manchester City are ready to make an imminent third bid for Joleon Lescott, despite Everton manager David Moyes' decision to reject the England international defender's formal transfer request yesterday, but will not up the stakes much higher with £22m likely to be their final offer.
Though Lescott's determination to make a formal request strengthens City's position, their policy of keeping broadly within their initial budgeted figure for transfer targets will be maintained and there is no intention of breaking Moyes' obdurate resistance with a blow-away figure for Lescott.
A final offer of £20m – rising to around £22m with add-ons – would be only marginally more than the £19m second offer which Everton so resolutely rejected while the club were on tour in the United States last month. The odds appear to be against City securing a player they have pursued for nine months.
Lescott's move now places him in a delicate position with fans if Moyes does have his way and the player begins the new Premier League campaign for Everton, at home to Arsenal on Saturday evening. The positive response Lescott earned in Everton's friendly against Malaga last Friday has given way yesterday to a general feeling on some fans' forums that the 27-year-old has been less than loyal to a club which had transformed him from a Championship player at Wolves into an established international.
Moyes' determination to keep his side together is likely to make him more willing to have Lescott languishing in the reserves than to grant him the departure he so craves and it would seem that in a World Cup season, when he has much to prove to Fabio Capello, his best route is that of Gareth Barry, who redoubled his efforts for Aston Villa when his move to Liverpool fell through last summer. He has three years to run on his current contract and could not leave under the Webster ruling, applicable to players who have served three years of a contract.
West Ham's efforts to prevent Matthew Upson leaving Upton Park for City include the offer of the club captaincy as well as a new four-year deal. Upson has rejected the latter but West Ham have been placed under no pressure by their new Icelandic banking owners to sell the player and are happy to refuse any discussions unless City move somewhere around £15m – double the amount they have so far indicated privately they might be willing to pay.
If City did come close to that figure – and they will not – then manager Gianfranco Zola has indicated that he would be willing to allow the player to follow his destiny. City's general refusal to pay more than their perceived value for players suggests that Portsmouth's 31-year-old former City skipper Sylvain Distin still seems the more likely new arrival before Saturday's curtain raiser at Blackburn.
There were more challenges for City manager Mark Hughes last night which his Bulgarian left-sided midfielder Martin Petrov, a player he wants to keep, said he wanted to leave the side in search of first-team football. Ahead of Bulgaria's friendly with Latvia tonight, Petrov said: "I don't see City depending too much on me this year, at least from what I have seen from the pre-season friendlies so far. No footballer is content with polishing the bench." Petrov plans to have talks with Hughes on his return.
Moyes, meanwhile, still hopes to secure the Arsenal central defender Philippe Senderos. The opening day encounter on Saturday may provide the opportunity for talks.