Roberto Mancini, the Manchester City manager, has admitted that he must sell players if he is to buy next month, as he seeks to build on the Christmas top spot which, in his managerial career, he has tended to convert into a title.
"Now we need to sell two or three players and then we'll see," Mancini said ahead of today's trip to West Bromwich Albion – a clear signal that the strictures of financial fair play are on a club who lost £195m in the last financial year. "Now we want to sell, and after we may have time to buy someone if it's possible. But it's not easy."
Much rests on Carlos Tevez's departure, with last Thursday's discussions between City chief executive John MacBeath and Milan officials in Manchester only preliminary. Mancini also hopes to see Wayne Bridge and Nedum Onuoha, whom he has had training with the reserves, out of the club.
Roma's Daniele de Rossi is one player he covets – and believes will incur a fee of just £5m, with minimal resale value at the age of 28, though the Italian's Tevez-bracket wages could be an impediment. "I don't think [we'll secure him] because De Rossi was born in Rome and it's unlikely that he'll leave the city [after 11 years at Roma]. There are players that could be good for us, but every time we want to buy a player their clubs ask for lots of money." He also seeks a central midfielder and central defender.
Senior executives at several Premier League top-six clubs privately feel that City will not be the same force in the second half of the season, as others will be more familiar with how to play them. But Mancini believes that, with Manchester United facing a number of tough away games – at Arsenal, Chelsea and City – his side can even afford to slip a few points behind them.
"I've told the guys that we can be second for three or four games, and go one or two points behind United," he said. "But it won't change anything. We know that United have to play many games away and we can recover points in those moments. I think we've got more chance if we have that attitude."
Mancini, who expects to have Edin Dzeko recovered from an ankle problem to play at The Hawthorns, said that topping Serie A at Christmas had "usually" seen his Internazionale sides to the title. Mancini won three consecutive titles while with the Milan club, making him the club's most successful domestic manager of recent times. "When you're on the top then you usually win, but here it's different. It's a good omen to be top at Christmas but it would be a better omen if United lost three games," he said.
"I'm very sorry when there are injuries like [Darren] Fletcher has [suffered]. I hope the [injured United players] can come back quickly. But this is football, sometimes it can happen. For this reason January is very important. When you are a strong team and you have a difficult moment you pull together and use it to stay where you are. United are very strong like that."
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