City believe that free agent Hargreaves is fit for purpose

Surprise move for injury-plagued former United player depends on personal terms

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The Independent Online

Manchester City's unexpected bid to sign Owen Hargreaves will stand or fall over the next two days on whether both parties can agree a financial deal for the player, after the club satisfied themselves that the former England international is fit enough to return to top-flight football.

City had been in contact with Hargreaves over the last few weeks, but their interest was only made public yesterday when the player was photographed coming out of Manchester's Bridgewater Hospital and shaking hands with a member of the City medical department following tests on the knee and shoulder injuries that have plagued Hargreaves' career.

Both sides accept that any possible deal will have to be along "pay-as-you-play" lines but that is the final hurdle to overcome in the next few days. City are satisfied that Hargreaves, 30, who played just five times for Manchester United in his last three seasons at the club, has overcome the worst of his problems that began with a patella tendon injury at Bayern Munich before his move to United four years ago.

The club see the signing as similar to that of Patrick Vieira, who joined them in January last year after a long battle with injury at his former club Internazionale but filled an important role. Although Brian Marwood, the club's key transfer fixer, indicated last week that Samir Nasri would be the last signing the club made this summer, it has always been their intention to get a player in, originally one on loan, to cover in Hargreaves' defensive midfielder position.

It is anticipated that City will tie up a deal for Hargreaves – if one done is done – over the next two days. As a free agent, Hargreaves does not have to sign before today's 11pm transfer window deadline, but the club would like him in place before they make the announcement of the 25 names in their squad on Friday.

There was some surprise yesterday among Hargreaves' former England team-mates at the squad's Grove hotel base in Hertfordshire at news of the potential deal. City's goalkeeper Joe Hart was only told that Hargreaves was in talks with his club during his briefing with newspaper reporters. "Is he? Wowsers!" Hart said. "Where's that come from? Really? I don't know what to make of that – that's been put on my toes. Great, great.

"Massive signing. You can tell how important he was. I've never been involved with him but I saw a lot of him before and how highly he was regarded when he was at Bayern and at Manchester United. He's a huge player and if he's fit and a part of Man City, he'll be another great signing."

Striking a note of caution, Wayne Rooney was less certain Hargreaves would be capable of the same impact he made in his one full season at United, where he was part of the team that won the Premier League and Champions League double in 2007-08.

"I don't know [about Hargreaves]," Rooney said. "He's been out for a couple of years now. To be fair to him, he's worked really hard and he got back last season, played one game, did his hamstring. It will be difficult for him to get back to his best. I hope he can. From an England point of view, he's the type of midfield player we haven't really had before. If he can get back, great – but it will be difficult for him."

The other big transfer news of the day was French champions Lille's bid to sign Joe Cole on loan from Liverpool. Frédéric Paquet, the Lille general manager and the architect of the club's recent success, said there would be "more news" today. "I cannot say anything at the moment, we are working on different players," he said. However, reports that the player was already on his way to France were said to be wide of the mark.

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