Manchester City's attempts to sign Kaka gathered pace last night as the club were given permission to speak to the player by Milan, who began their own campaign to maintain fans' support, by placing the ball firmly in the Brazilian's court and making it clear he will have to demand to leave.
Though Milan's in-house TV station said the club is considering City's offer, persuading the player is the next task. To that end, City are to meet Bosco Leite, Kaka's father and chief adviser, in Manchester, to show him what they have to offer, the player's spokesman Diogo Kotscho indicated last night. That as yet unscheduled meeting may take place in the next few days. Kotscho also indicated last night that Kaka had not rejected City's approach, despite quotes attributed to him on Wednesday suggesting he wants to "grow old" at Milan.
"It's an exaggeration [to say] that it's almost a done deal and it's an exaggeration that Kaka has rejected the offer," Kotscho said. "Milan has authorised the negotiation with Manchester City ... the next step now is that Kaka's father will eventually talk to Manchester City."
City's executive chairman, Garry Cook, knows the player must be persuaded to leave in a way which does not cause Milan to lose face. There is a view in some quarters at City that Kaka may hold a press conference next week announcing his departure. Such an exit would mirror the way Andrei Shevchenko left Milan for Chelsea three years ago and Robinho's exit from Real Madrid for Eastlands last year.
But the view from Italy is that, before that, a large PR battle is about to be played out between the Serie A club, who do not want to be seen to be showing Kaka the door, and the player, who does not want to be seen to be asking to go. "You supporters are going to be crucial," Mauro Suma, the director of Milan's TV Channel said, creating the impression that the club do not want the player to leave. "The club are currently considering Manchester City's offer. We're talking about a matter of days, not hours."
Sources close to the negotiations maintain that City's offer remains £91m (€100m), not the £107m being reported in Italy last night. Meanwhile, sources in Spain indicated that some of City's players believe a deal – including £27m commission fees and £15m wages net a season – is more or less done.
City are certainly confident enough in their pursuit of the 26-year-old to have mapped out already where the former Fifa World Player of the Year will be deployed in a Manchester City starting XI – in the centre of midfield, with Stephen Ireland and Shaun Wright-Phillips on either side of him and Roque Santa Cruz – another of City's major transfer targets – up front. Despite Mark Hughes' avid pursuit of Craig Bellamy – the City manager's latest offer of £9.5m was rejected by West Ham on Wednesday – the Welsh striker does not appear to be part of an ideal starting XI.
Hughes was quick yesterday to dispel reports from Abu Dhabi that City's owner, Sheikh Mansour al Nahyan, wants to walk away from the Kaka deal. The club is of the view that the source of these rumours was Sulaiman al-Fahim, initially the figurehead for the takeover of City in September, but an individual the club have been at pains to distance themselves from.
Hughes' language, like Kotscho's, suggested that much is still to be agreed upon before City could lay out wages of £500,000 a week on the Brazilian. "There will be more of a buzz if the player actually turns up in the car park and he walks through the doorway but we are nowhere near that at the moment so we have to be a little bit pragmatic and understand that it's always a long process," Hughes said. "The situation is still fluid and there's a lot to be played out yet. [I have] no idea [if it will happen] It's depending on too many factors."
Hughes is by no means at the heart of the situation, though. Despite his dismissal yesterday of the suggestion that he was being marginalised – "If people think this is being done above my head, then they are being totally naïve," he said – he has had, and is having, little influence where the courtship of Kaka is concerned.
It is fair to say that the Brazilian is not at the forefront of Hughes' mind, in any case, as he approaches a tough home game against Wigan tomorrow. Hughes admitted to "a little bit of impatience" yesterday and is certainly agitated by the time it is taking to add any signings to Wayne Bridge.
It is understood that the search for a holding midfielder has led to an approach for Nigel de Jong, Hamburg's Netherlands international. City are growing increasingly exasperated with West Ham's demands for Bellamy.