Manchester City are becoming increasingly pessimistic about the prospects of persuading one of their most promising Academy graduates, Daniel Sturridge, to sign new contract terms, with his current deal running down and his family seeking more than £60,000 a week wages for him.
Mark Hughes admires the young striker and is frustrated by City’s failure to secure a new deal earlier but he admitted yesterday that the club are currently “not close to an agreement.” Sturridge has developed a close training ground rapport with Robinho, despite their language barrier, and his on-field understanding with the Brazilian has been eye-catching at times but the fact he can leave the club for no fee in the summer has put his advisors – chief among them is the 19-year-old’s father, Michael - in a strong negotiating position.
“He knows and his advisors know he is in a position of strength as regards his contract,” Hughes said. “We have made it clear we feel for his sake and his development this is the best place for him. Other things are of more importance to other people around him and we’re trying to make sure Daniel is here and he is progressing as a player at Man City and not anywhere else.” There is no suggestion from City that Chelsea are interested in the player but more evidence of Sturridge’s potential has been visible during his nine starts this season and there will certainly be clubs who are interested come the summer.
Brazilian midfielder Elano was not expected to last the transfer window at Eastlands – that not a single bid came in for him was unexpected – but Hughes believes he has got it through to a player who takes a place on the substitute’s bench badly that he will not be guaranteed starts every week. “What I’ve noticed of late is that Elano understands now it’s a squad game here,” Hughes said. “There are some games where I decide he can make a difference and he’ll start and there’s other games I’ll make the decision to go with different personnel. He is more comfortable with that. Before Christmas he found it more difficult not to be in the team.”
‘Ela’ – as the 27-year-old is known at the club – demonstrated his potential with Brazil’s first goal in the 2-0 win over Italy at the Emirates on Tuesday (Robinho scored the second) and Hughes believes that the player’s excellent start to his City career last autumn has made it harder to accept his more marginalized role now. Despite Shaun Wright Phillips three-game ban, Hughes did not give the impression Elano would start against Portsmouth in the league tomorrow