Steve McClaren's prayers appeared to have been answered yesterday when tests revealed that Micah Richards, who was carried out of Manchester City's Carling Cup tie at Bolton on Wednesday night on a stretcher, has suffered only cartilage bruising.
Richards may conceivably be back for City's Premier League match with Sunderland on Monday, but he did not train yesterday and his condition will be assessed daily, according to his club. It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that the bruising to the cartilage in Richards' right knee will rule him out for England's potentially vital Euro 2008 qualifier against Croatia at Wembley on 21 November, but a City spokesman indicated the defender was "battling to be fit" for Monday's match at Eastlands.
The 19-year-old sustained the injury in a challenge on the Bolton captain Kevin Nolan during City's 1-0 victory at the Reebok, which sealed their place in the quarter-finals of the competition for the first time in seven years. Eriksson later voiced concern about the injury but tests at Manchester's Bridgewater Hospital late yesterday morning ruled out the kind of ligament damage which would have deprived McClaren of a player who has become one of England's most potent forces after taking over the injured Gary Neville's right-back berth.
While City await the return of the central defender, reports suggest that the club might be ready to make a January bid for the Brazilian striker Afonso Alves. Sources suggest that representatives of City's owner, Thaksin Shinawatra, met those of the striker's club, Heerenveen, in Amsterdam on Wednesday and tabled a €12m (£8.3m) bid for the 26-year-old. Heerenveen are believed to be looking for €20m, though the add-ons the Shinawatra contingent is believed to have offered – including appearance incentives and bonuses for Champions League qualification – would take the figure closer to the asking price.
Eriksson has discovered in the form of Elano the benefits of buying Brazilian and Alves is rumoured to have attracted the interest of Sunderland, Middlesbrough and Portsmouth. But the City wages on offer would make them favourites to sign him. After scoring 35 goals in 31 games last season, the striker netted seven times in a league match with Heracles Almelo last month – albeit against an abysmal defence, with Alves clearly embarrassed by his feat towards the end.
City sharply played down speculation about a direct move for Alves two months from the transfer window, insisting that he was one of many players they had watched. Eriksson, who spent £40m in a few weeks after succeeding Stuart Pearce in July, has made no secret of his eagerness to spend in January, though, and said before last weekend's defeat at Chelsea that if Shaun Wright-Phillips were interested in a return to Eastlands: "I would open the gate for him – personally."Reuse content