The Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini voiced his fears yesterday that the club risk falling out of the Champions League after one season, like Tottenham Hotspur, if they do not spend again this summer, although the club's football administrator Brian Marwood's subsequent suggestion that "only tinkering" is now required provides a sense of how fraught the club's next step may be.
Mancini has become increasingly concerned that a climate of belt-tightening at City, who face a struggle to comply with Uefa's financial fair play regime, may leave the club reflecting next spring on a colourful adventure to the Champions league knockout phase and yet a failure to maintain Champions League status. "This year we should take Spurs as an example," Mancini said. "They got to a Champions League quarter-final and finished fifth or sixth in the league. It's tough if you don't have a big squad and change six players every game."
Mancini, whose captain Carlos Tevez has said that he must consult his family before deciding on his own City future, also declared after the historic FA Cup win over Stoke City that "now we have this time to buy other players". Although Udinese's owner, Giampaolo Pozzo, is looking for a ten-fold profit on Alexis Sanchez – City's prime target – four years after buying him for £3m in 2006 and loaning him back to clubs in Chile, the need to buy has been a recurrent Mancini theme. The manager declared four days ago that "there is this [summer] market where we can buy".
But Marwood and his chief executive, Garry Cook, must immediately begin driving down City's £121m losses – including £133m on wages – and with both determined to sell loaned players before buying more, the most frugal City transfer window in the Abu Dhabi era may severely test the relationship. "We have put together a group whose average [age] is 24-25," Marwood said. "I don't think there will be major changes, just tinkering. We believe there is a good four years with this group to develop even further."
City, who will not parade the FA Cup before tomorrow night's home game with Stoke out of respect to the defeated finalists, have also received no further assurances from Tevez, despite Mancini claiming his tenth trophy in a decade of management and City's first in 35 years. The Argentine insisted that he was not holding City to ransom for an increase in his £200,000-a-week salary.
"No, no," he insisted, when asked in his first public discussion of his future beyond the summer if the uncertainty he is creating was about money. He declared that if he leaves it will be "a personal decision rather than a professional one", based on missing his daughters Florencia and Katie. He ducked suggestions that he should therefore have to leave for Argentina, where they live, rather than Italy or Spain.
Mancini admitted that Tevez challenged him last week over words on the issue, attributed to the manager in the Italian press, and with an increasing sense of dislocation between the two, the only crumb of comfort Tevez offered was his declaration that the prospect of overhauling Manchester United as the Premier League champions might be an enticement. "That is a great motivation to stay," said Tevez.
The holders of the Old Trafford "ticker" banner proclaiming City's 35 years without trophies, are coming under pressure from some United fans to remove it now – and possibly hand it to City – though there are as yet no plans in place to do so. United, basking in a record 19th title, have no intention of involving themselves in this delicate issue. "They can do what they like at Old Trafford," goalkeeper Joe Hart said. "I'm annoyed to be even saying their name today because this is about us. It's about Man City winning the FA Cup and Man City getting into the Champions League."
City will parade the trophy on the evening of Monday 23 May, the day after the conclusion of the Premier League season, when an open-top bus will take the squad and trophy from the city centre to the stadium, starting at 6pm.
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