City prepare to go to war with second player
First Tevez, now Toure - City open up second front
Already mired in acrimony with Carlos Tevez, Manchester City are bracing themselves for a battle with another of the club's former captains after it emerged Kolo Touré plans to contest any potential punishment levelled at him for his six-month suspension for a failed drugs test.
The 30-year-old Ivory Coast international defender is scheduled to appear in front of an internal disciplinary panel, chaired by the club's football executive Brian Marwood, next week as City attempt to determine whether to fine the player for his prolonged, and self-inflicted, absence.
Touré, who started the Carling Cup match against Wolves last night, failed the test after last February's Manchester derby and was immediately suspended by the club, before being found guilty of taking a banned substance in May. He was suspended for six months and did not return to action until August. It later emerged he had ingested the substance after taking his wife's slimming pills without the express permission of the club's medical staff.
City are believed to see that as a breach of his professional duty and may look to impose a retrospective fine on the player, when the disciplinary panel delivers its verdict, as recompense for the fact that the club continued to pay his wages while he was unavailable for selection.
Touré's agent, Saif Rubie, said: "Kolo is disappointed that the club have decided to take this stance and he will contest any planned action against him. However, he will continue to give his all, as always, for Roberto Mancini and the team in their quest for honours this season."
Touré – who has admitted he may seek a transfer to Paris St-Germain after finding himself ousted from Mancini's team by Joleon Lescott – is likely to refer the case to the Professional Footballers' Association, which is expected to fight the case vigorously.
Such a problem will hardly be welcomed by the Premier League leaders, who yesterday witnessed a drawing of battle lines in their ongoing row with Carlos Tevez.
The striker's advisers revealed on Tuesday night that the 27-year-old is considering suing Mancini for defamation following the Italian's insistence that Tevez refused to appear as a substitute during the 2-0 defeat to Bayern Munich last month. The claim came as a direct response to the findings of City's internal disciplinary panel, which imposed a fine of £792,000 on the striker for his apparent wildcat strike.
Tevez, for his part, maintains that he did not refuse to come on but refused to resume his warm-up, though a statement issued on the club's website laid five charges of breach of contract at the forward. Curiously, only one of those – relating to his failure to warm up – appeared in the letter sent to Tevez by Graham Wallace, City's chief operating officer.
That detail is likely to form the crux of any potential legal challenge by Tevez and his advisers, led by Kia Joorabchian. City remain unbowed by such a threat. Roberto Mancini has been informed he retains the full support of Sheikh Mansour, and the club are adamant they will not be bullied into selling the player at a reduced price, insisting they will allow him to rot if an offer bettering the £35m deal they struck with Brazilian side Corinthians last summer is not received.
Corinthians, where Tevez spent two fruitful years before moving to England, are one of just a handful of sides who could meet the former Manchester United, West Ham and Boca Juniors striker's financial demands, though City are unimpressed by the claims of the club's president Andres Sanchez that a deal for £16m is close.
"Although many people don't believe it, I can assure you that Tevez is about to sign with Corinthians," Sanchez said. "Our fans can't imagine how close Tevez is. But we are not going to pay €40m [£34.8m] for him at all. Today, his value is €18m, because he is facing so many problems at Man City."
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