The Manchester City chairman, Khaldoon al-Mubarak, believes that allowing Carlos Tevez to break his five-year contract would be a betrayal of the principles the Abu Dhabi owners want at their club and has made no plea to the Argentine to stay.
The loss of Tevez, in whom no clubs had expressed interest by last night despite him advertising his availability by announcing a desire to quit City late on Monday, would leave the club desperately short of proven strikers. But Mubarak, who has been at the hub of several telephone calls involving Tevez and his agent, Kia Joorabchian, will allow him to leave only if a figure approaching City's £50m valuation is met. Tevez may have a long wait to see if the Italian club most likely to give him an escape route from City – Internazionale – are ready to do so.
Though City have reminded the football world that Tevez is only two years into a five-year deal which no one forced him to sign, the big question is how far below £50m – and perhaps how far below £40m – a bid would need to be for the club to sell. With at least three City players having already indicated to manager Roberto Mancini that they do not want Tevez to be retained as captain, the corrosive effect of his indifference to the club is already having an effect. There are few at any level at Eastlands who would be distraught if a deal can be agreed and Tevez released from what he claims is a personal torture.
The timing of Monday's statement, on the very day that City began their summer rebuilding with the £7m acquisition of Gaël Clichy from Arsenal, has not gone unnoticed at Eastlands and is seen by some as another sign of the Argentine's patent lack of interest in City's progress. The contradictions in Tevez's explanations of why he wants to leave have also become a source of deep scepticism, from board room to dressing roomat the club. In December, statements attributed to the player suggested a toxic relationship with the chief executive, Garry Cook, was to blame. On Monday , separation from his family was cited – despite the Argentine's decision to jet to Tenerife, rather than be with his daughters in Buenos Aires when granted a break last winter. The widespread suspicion is that the £250,000-a-week player simply wants more money.
In anticipation of his exit, a City move for Atletico Madrid's Sergio Aguero cannot be ruled out, though sources suggest he has not been on City's list of targets so far this summer. Juventus were in Madrid yesterday, meeting Atletico's chief executive, Miguel Angel Gil Marin, with a view to concluding a deal for the Argentina striker. "I know my agents are working hard to do a deal but I'm concentrating on doing well in the Copa America right now," Aguero said.
Mancini suggested last week that a swap deal with Inter involving Samuel Eto'o had been explored, which suggests City interest in the Cameroonian. Napoli's Ederson Cavani has also been on the club's radar.
But Tevez may struggle to find an exit route. Internazionale and Milan are the only two clubs with the resources to bid for Tevez in Italy – his destination of choice – and Milan already have a number of strikers. With Zlatan Ibrahomovic, Alexandre Pato, Robinho, Antonio Cassano and the popular old stager Filippo Inzaghi in reserve, Milan do not require him. The prevailing view in Italy is that Inter's president, Massimo Moratti, is the individual on whom Tevez is now dependent. After Inter won only an Italian Cup last season, which is considered of minimal value, Moratti is expected to feel the need for one of the signings with which he likes periodically to shock football. Moratti has said that he dreams of bringing Lionel Messi to San Siro one day but, with that even more unthinkable a prospect at present than signing Cristiano Ronaldo, the second player on his dream list, Tevez might be considered the third. The presence at Inter of Tevez's Argentina team-mates Javier Zanetti and Esteban Cambiasso have heightened their appeal to Tevez.
Sources in Italy find it unthinkable Tevez would be willing to contemplate a move to Juventus if all else fails, despite that club's ability to pay the 27-year-old's salary. Juve have spent €75m (£67.4m) in the past two transfer windows, but Udinese's Swiss midfielder, Gökhan Inler, has rejected a move to them in favour of Napoli – because they have qualified for the Champions League.
Samuel Eto'o (Inter, 30) The Cameroon striker is just as ruthless in front of goal as Tevez and certainly quicker.
Sergio Aguero (At Madrid, 23) The little Argentine is stocky, inventive and technically excellent. May well be available this summer.
Edinson Cavani (Napoli, 24) Has scored 26 goals in his first year since joining Napoli from Palermo. May be too similar to Edin Dzeko.
Ezequiel Lavezzi (Napoli, 26) Another Napoli forward, the tattooed and maverick Argentine is closer to Tevez's style, and Mancini is known to be keen on him.