Exclusive: Mega names key to City's £70m transfer plan

Manchester City set to smash world transfer record in January with Kaka and Messi top targets
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The Independent Football

Manchester City's wealthy Arab owners are determined to try to land a "world superstar" in the January transfer window and have drawn up a list of targets, headed by Kaka and Lionel Messi. The other names that have been discussed are Fernando Torres, Carlos Tevez, Cristiano Ronaldo and Samuel Eto'o, with the Abu Dhabi United Group prepared to pay upwards of £70m for a top-name signing to add to their British transfer record purchase of Robinho, for a fee of up to £34m, on the final day of the summer transfer window.

Although it would appear almost impossible to prise any of the players away from their clubs, especially mid-season, City are determined to test the resolve with a world-record fee – beating the £48m that Real Madrid paid Juventus for Zinedine Zidane in 2001 – in the hope that one of the big names will be signed.

It is part of a strategy that City's owners have, after a series of discussions, decided to settle on to make a statement of intent in world football and to help the team to "kick on" in the second half of this season. They believe that if they can sign Kaka or Messi then other big-name players will follow for football, as well as monetary, reasons. A bid is also being weighed up for the Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and for Valencia's David Villa but it appears that those two targets will wait until next summer.

"They are going for a big player," a source, who has been involved in the discussions, said yesterday. "If they really want to be a big club and move to a new level they need to get a big player in and that would mean one of Kaka, Messi, Ronaldo or Tevez, because of his availability. Unless a player like that can be signed then it will be a struggle and the sooner it is done the better, which means trying to do so in January. Then others will follow."

City are also likely to grant the wish of their manager, Mark Hughes, to try to acquire a few more modest names as he overhauls his squad. Among those he has identified are Roque Santa Cruz, Wayne Bridge, Lassana Diarra and Benfica's Luisao.

City are likely to be the busiest Premier League club during the January window because Abu Dhabi United had only one day, the last day of August, to enter the transfer market following their whirlwind purchase of the club last summer. They signed Robinho under the noses of Chelsea and, although there was surprise at the fee paid, the owners are delighted with the contribution made by the Brazilian and the profile he has helped to give the club. Robinho has also become an influential player off the field and it is understood that Hughes, who listens to the striker, has become more receptive to the idea of trying to acquire other big-name players.

On that final day in August names including Ronaldo and Torres were bandied about, as well as Villa and Dimitar Berbatov. It then appeared City had cooled on the idea of trying to acquire superstars. But a series of discussions have taken place, with the owners looking at how Chelsea, in the early years of Roman Abramovich's purchase, went about acquiring lots of players – such as Juan Sebastian Veron, Hernan Crespo and Adrian Mutu – rather than concentrating on one or two superstars. City believe that strategy has, ultimately, proved wasteful and sense they can make a bigger impact by signing a big name.

Top of the list is undoubtedly Kaka and his remarks last week, ahead of Milan's Uefa Cup tie against Portsmouth, when he said he was flattered by City's interest and that he had spoken to the club's players Robinho and Elano about the Premier League, did not go unnoticed. Then, when Hughes was asked about Kaka, he said: "It's always interesting when top players talk about their situation. Until something happens, though, we will have to wait and see. These are exciting times here, anyway, and January is going to be a part of that."

City certainly hope that an offer of around £70m would be too good for Milan to refuse while if Kaka did move to Eastlands it would be another serious blow to Chelsea, who have long coveted the player, especially having already lost out on Robinho, whom the Stamford Bridge manager, Luiz Felipe Scolari, would still like to sign.

Messi would appear to be a far less likely acquisition, given that he is absolutely central to Barcelona's plans and the success they are having, while City have pretty much ruled out an attempt to sign either Ronaldo or Tevez, even though the latter is still to sort out his future at Manchester United. A move for Tevez would have a greater chance of succeeding in the summer, although it is thought that the Argentine will have signed permanently for United by then.

Torres is regarded as an interesting case. Although the Spanish striker is understood to be happy at Liverpool and he would undoubtedly be the last player that their manager, Rafael Benitez, would want to sell, the finances of the club are such that a deal could be offered that Anfield's American owners might find irresistible. Even so, their standing with the supporters would plumb new depths if Torres were sold, no matter the price. But it appears that City's owners may be about to shake up the market.

Six shooters: The big-name players coveted by Manchester City

Kaka Has committed himself to Milan in the past, with Chelsea interested, but that resolve appears to be softening as Manchester City prepare a bid. Despite his importance, the Italians may sell if the price is right.

Lionel Messi Regarded as the ultimate fantasy signing, the Argentine is of supreme importance to Barcelona, who would reject any bid. Would be interesting, however, if City matched the buyout clause in his contract, which would be in excess of £100m.

Fernando Torres Happy at Liverpool and is understood not to have any desire to leave. There has been interest in the past from Chelsea and City. A bid of £70m may, however, have Liverpool's American owners twitching.

Cristiano Ronaldo Although coveted by City's owners, and a move for him has been discussed, he is regarded as a "no-no" for obvious reasons.

Carlos Tevez Similar to Ronaldo in that his present employers would bar any move. But given his contract situation – a permanent deal has not yet been agreed – and his peripheral role this season, it cannot be wholly discounted.

Samuel Eto'o Fit and back in form – like Messi he has 14 goals already this season – the Cameroonian was linked with a move away from Barcelona in the summer, but no real interest materialised. Could be different in January, however, and it would be interesting to see how his club react.