City reject Real's claims over failed bid for Gago

Club deny Madrid chief Valdano's suggestion they were 'unprepared' for deal
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The Independent Football

Manchester City have rejected Real Madrid's claims that they scuppered the last-minute £16.3m transfer of Fernando Gago on Monday afternoon and are confident that everything they did was above board.

The Madrid sporting director, Jorge Valdano, said that City were unable to move quickly when the two clubs finally agreed a price for Gago with 40 minutes left before the transfer window shut at 5pm on Monday. He said: "They had nothing prepared, not even one document signed. They had not reached an agreement with the player and they would have had to have done everything in 40 minutes."

The reason that City had not negotiated terms with Gago was because the club's chief executive, Garry Cook, had respected the Fifa rules on transfers that a player should not be approached by the buying club until they have agreed a transfer fee. It is a rule that is widely ignored in many transfers.

Roberto Mancini had identified Gago, 23, as a player he wanted to sign before January but City regarded Madrid's valuation of £22.7m as too high. After they failed to obtain a work permit for the Parma midfielder McDonald Mariga, City decided to go back to Madrid to see if they would lower their price. Unexpectedly, they were able to agree on a deal of £16.3m.

Because City had not agreed terms with the Argentine's agent they offered to take the player on loan in order to push the deal through quickly. They also agreed to sign an undertaking to pay the full amount for Gago in the summer. This is common practice in last-minute January deals when a permanent signing cannot be arranged in time. It was the case when Jermain Defoe joined Portsmouth from Tottenham in 2008.

However, Madrid rejected that option and have subsequently attacked City for failing to do the deal quickly enough. However, in this instance, Cook appears to be blameless in his dealings.

Yesterday, Gago's agent weighed in with criticism of City. Marcello Lombilla said: "City used us. They approached Madrid knowing there wasn't enough time to put something together."

Arsenal have decided against signing the Montenegrin defender Stefan Savic, 19, from the Serbian Premier League team BSK Borca. Savic had hoped that Arsenal would sign him on a pre-contract today with a view to bringing him to the club in the summer on a permanent deal but, after a 10-day trial, Arsenal released him.

In an interview in a Serbian newspaper, Savic, who attended Sunday's game against Manchester United said that Arsène Wenger was so angry with the Arsenal players that he only gave them one day off rather than the scheduled two days.

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