Roberto Mancini, the Manchester City manager, has raised the prospect of a 12-month contract extension for Carlos Tevez – an extraordinary turnaround for a player who was in an outright state of civil war with the club just a year ago.
It is unclear whether Tevez, 28, will want to extend beyond the 18 months left on his five-year deal or return to Argentina, as he has suggested he might. But the fact that Mancini is considering an extension, which could potentially see the Argentine playing for the club at the age of 31 and also secure more time to find a buyer, rather than lose him on a free transfer, reveals how the striker has managed to make his peace and find an accommodation with the Italian.
"I don't know what Carlos thinks about this," Mancini said, ahead of tomorrow's critical visit to Arsenal. "We have another 18 months and I think we have the time to talk with him about this. When Carlos takes his decision, he will talk with us. I remember when Carlos said 'when I finish my contract I go back to Argentina' but I don't know what he thinks now. But we have the time for this, [a one-year extension] could be [an option] because Carlos is 28 and he has other years to play."
Mancini, who has Aleksandr Kolarov back in contention but will be without Sergio Aguero until next weekend at the earliest, said that Manchester United would remain catchable even if they extend their lead at the top of the Premier League table to 10 points this weekend. His logic was based on the 13-point swing which saw City lead United by five points at one stage last season, only for United to assume an eight-point advantage – and still sacrifice the title.
"It could be [a 10-point gap by Sunday]," Mancini said. "They [United] play at home against Liverpool; we play against Arsenal away. Everything is possible but it doesn't change the situation. Last year United recovered when we were five points up and after [losing at] Arsenal we went eight points behind. United recovered 13 points. So we recover 10. It is not a problem."
Mancini added: "There are some moments during a season that even a top team like United can lose points. We should be ready when United lose a point."
City are without Samir Nasri (suspended) and the Touré brothers, who are away on African Cup of Nations duties, as well as Aguero, with Jack Rodwell and Micah Richards on the long-term injury list. A central defender is the manager's target this month because the absence of Richards and Kolo Touré reduce his complement to three. "I think if we need players we should buy. The problem is we can't sell players because in this moment we don't have enough," Mancini said. "We will see if we need someone to put in over the next 15 days."
The manager delivered another declaration of faith in Mario Balotelli, of whom he said he was "very, very happy". City believe a bid from Milan is possible, though Balotelli's former club Internazionale have also come into the equation, with sporting director Piero Ausilio claiming they have first refusal on the player, who moved from Inter to City in August 2010. "The right of first refusal is there," Ausilio told Italian magazine Panorama. "If Inter decide to exercise it, it will be a choice that will be made if City should decide to sell him."
Red mist descends: Mario's bad memory
* In last April's league meeting at the Emirates Mario Balotelli received the fourth red card of his short Manchester City career as their title hopes were dealt a blow with a 1-0 defeat. Mikel Arteta's late shot from distance settled a tense affair, which left City eight points behind Manchester United with six games remaining, while Arsenal were well set for a Champions League place.