Warning for Eden Hazard as Manchester City move for £7m Younes Belhanda

Montpellier midfielder in frame but demands may cost £30m Lille star dear

Manchester City have identified the Montpellier midfielder Younes Belhanda as a back-up target, with their pursuit of Eden Hazard, one of the Continent's brightest talents, proving more difficult than the club had first anticipated.

The Moroccan Belhanda, 22, is a key cog of the Montpellier side which, against all expectations, is in position to ruin the title hopes of the Qataris who have invested heavily in Paris St-Germain. City are beginning to apply themselves to the possible acquisition of the £7m-rated Morocco international because, after two months' hard pursuit of the 21-year-old Hazard, which has included a property tour of the Cheshire commuter belt, the demands of the player's representatives are becoming a source of severe concern.

Hazard, for whom Tottenham Hotspur made the early running, with Sir Alex Ferguson another self-professed enthusiast, was always likely to be an expensive acquisition, with a price tag of around £30m. But it is understood that his agent is demanding that Hazard be placed among the club's highest earners – something the club cannot and will not accede to.

Belhanda would be a far cheaper option because, while he has been vying with Hazard as the standout player this season, this has been his first genuinely big campaign and he is more untested. The core of René Girard's Montpellier side is the generation of young players who lifted the French youth cup, the Coupe Gambardella, in 2009, and Belhanda, whom Girard has compared to Robert Pires, is foremost among them. He is also in the mould of Samir Nasri, Montpellier through and through, in the way that Nasri lived and breathed Marseilles.

Like Nasri he is versatile, with the ability to work the flanks and as a playmaker. But he is at his best operating behind a lone striker. He has operated behind Olivier Giroud, this season, in a 4-4-1-1 system, and been the individual who makes Montpellier tick. A product of Montpellier's academy, and with 12 goals and six assists, he boasts a superior record to the €43m (£34m) Javier Pastore, the most expensive of PSG's summer recruits.

There is evidence that he would bring City another combustible character, though. Belhanda was sent off amid a mass brawl last week and could face a prolonged ban for punching Evian's Cédric Mongongu on his way back to the dressing room. After the match, he turned on Giroud for not taking a penalty which Souleymane Camara missed in stoppage time. It meant a 2-2 draw, which has allowed PSG to go back to the top of Ligue 1.

It is Hazard whom Roberto Mancini covets most and the City manager is understood to have become increasingly concerned already that United or Spurs may steal in if his own club delay.

This summer may well be another in which Mancini's desires are tempered by the strategy of the club's football administrator, Brian Marwood, who must also seek to bring the club in line with Uefa's financial fair play parameters. A title for City would strengthen the manager's hand, at a time when he feels a playmaker is one of City's missing pieces.

Arsenal's manager, Arsene Wenger, said of Belhanda. "I know him well. He plays without any complexities. His real talent is dribbling, passing, and he has good technique, which can influence any game. I am sure of his potential. I love this player, but I do not want to create problems. Montpellier will decide if he leaves. Once that happens we might look at him, but we respect Montpellier." Belhanda, who has two years left on his contract, said: "My dream is to play in England or Germany. Everybody wants to play in the Premier League. There are great clubs like Arsenal".

Related stories...

Arsenal defeat was the turning point for Manchester City in Premier League title charge, says Joleon Lescott

Manchester United must make history to snatch Premier League crown from Manchester City

Belhanda in brief

Born 25 February 1990 in Avignon.

Youth career RC Aramonais (1997-98), MJC Avignon (1998-03), Montpellier (2003-09).

Clubs Montpellier (2009-).

International France U20 (2 caps, 0 goals), Morocco (12 caps, 1 goal).

Can play as a central midfielder, on the wing or just behind the striker, and has scored 12 league goals this season.

Played for Morocco in this year's African Nations Cup with Queen's Park Rangers' Adel Taarabt and Arsenal's Marouane Chamakh, but they went out in the group stage.

News
news
Voices
voicesThe Ukip leader on why he's done nothing illegal
Arts & Entertainment
artYouth club owner says mural is 'gift from the sky' so he can prevent closure of venue
News
science
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
News
Plans to decriminalise non-payment of television licence fees would cost the BBC £500m according to estimates drawn up within the Corporation
people
News
people
Life & Style
The new low cost smartphone of Motorola, 'Motorola Moto G', is displayed in Sao Paulo, Brazil on November 13, 2013. The smartphone, with dimensions 65.9mm W x 129.9mm H x 6.0 - 11.6mm D is equipped with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 with quad-core 1,2 GHz CPU, a 4.5-inch display and Android Operating System 4.3 and a suggested price of $ 179 USD.
techData assessing smartphones has revealed tens of millions of phones are at risk of being harvested
Arts & Entertainment
Jessica Pare as Megan Draper and Jon Hamm as the troubled, melancholy Don Draper
tvAnd six other questions we hope Mad Men series seven will answer
Arts & Entertainment
Cody and Paul Walker pictured in 2003.
film
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Homelessness: Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Zubairi Sentongo swapped poverty in Uganda for homelessness in Britain. But a YMCA scheme connected him with a couple offering warmth and shelter
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park
The pain of IVF

The pain of IVF

As an Italian woman vows to keep the babies from someone else’s eggs, Julian Baggini ponders how the reality of childbirth is often messier than the natural ideal
Supersize art

Is big better? Britain's latest super-sized art

The Kelpies are the latest addition to a growing army of giant sculptures. But naysayers are asking what a pair of gigantic horse heads tells us about Falkirk?
James Dean: Back on the big screen

James Dean: Back on the big screen

As 'Rebel without a Cause' is re-released, Geoffrey Macnab reveals how its star perfected his moody act
Catch-22: How the cult classic was adapted for the stage

How a cult classic was adapted for the stage

More than half a century after it was published 'Catch-22' will make its British stage debut next week
10 best activity books for children

10 best activity books for children

Keep little ones busy this bank holiday with one of these creative, educational and fun books
Arsenal 3 West Ham United 1: Five things we learnt from the battle between the London sides

Five things we learnt from Arsenal's win over West Ham

Arsenal still in driving seat for Champions League spot and Carroll can make late charge into England’s World Cup squad
Copa del Rey final: Barcelona are paying for their complacency and not even victory over Real Madrid will put things right

Pete Jenson on the Copa del Rey final

Barcelona are paying for their complacency and not even victory over Real Madrid will put things right
Rafa to reign? Ten issues clay courts will serve up this season

Rafa to reign? Ten issues clay courts will serve up this season

With the tennis circus now rolling on to the slowest surface, Paul Newman highlights who'll be making the headlines – and why
Exclusive: NHS faces financial disaster in 2015 as politicians urged to find radical solution

NHS faces financial disaster in 2015

Politicians urged to find radical solution
Ukraine crisis: How spontaneous are the pro-Russian protests breaking out in Ukraine’s east?

Ukraine crisis

How spontaneous are the pro-Russian protests breaking out in Ukraine’s east?
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: The first execution at the Tower of London for 167 years

The first execution at the Tower of London for 167 years

A history of the First World War in 100 moments
Fires could turn Amazon rainforest into a desert as human activity and climate change threaten ‘lungs of the world’, says study

New threat to the Amazon rainforest:

Fires that scorch the ‘lungs of the Earth’
Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City: And the winner of this season’s Premier League title will be...

Who’s in box seat now? The winner of the title will be ...

Who is in best shape to take the Premier League prize?