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
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
i100

Other places that have held independence referendums
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
news

Arts and Entertainment
Blossoming love: Colin Firth as Stanley and Emma Stone as Sophie, in 'Magic in the Moonlight'
film

Actors star in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
News
peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur
film

It scooped up an unprecedented 11 Academy Awards when it was first remade in 1959

News
news

Watch this commuter wage a one-man war against the Circle Line
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
lifeShould we feel guilty about keeping cats inside?
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

Arts and Entertainment
Maxine Peake plays Hamlet at Manchester's Royal Exchange
theatreReview: Maxine Peake brings emotional ferocity to Shakespeare's starring part
Travel
travel

...and the perfect time to visit them

Sport
Jonas Gutierrez (r) competes with Yaya Toure (l)
football

Newcastle winger reveals he has testicular cancer - and is losing his trademark long hair as a result

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week