Manchester City's pursuit of Samuel Eto'o was effectively over last night, the club having set a deadline of close of business for the striker to decide whether to accept wages of £200,000 a week and move from Barcelona.
Manager Mark Hughes had spoken of the need for "patience" where City's latest marquee target was concerned but the indecision from Barcelona – where Eto'o and his current club are at odds over the terms of his departure – was beginning to affect City's summer rebuilding.
The Cameroon international was looking to take half of the £25m transfer fee City were offering as a signing-on fee, but the Catalans – who needed the fee to pursue David Villa of Valencia or else Atletico Madrid's Diego Forlan – were unwilling to accept that. City indicated last week that they were not prepared to provide yet more money to ease the player's departure and have been true to their word. "If we get to a point where we feel things aren't going to happen and we feel the process is stalling and we can't move it forward, then that's the time we walk away and we've done that in the past," Hughes said. And so it has proved.
City have again discovered the profound difficulties in luring top players to a still middle-ranking club. They failed last January to make Milan's Kaka appreciate the potential of their "project" and the Eto'o situation has been exacerbated by the fact that the 28-year-old cannot even be offered Europa League football next season.
The task is easier where British players are concerned and there is still a real belief around Eastlands that Chelsea's John Terry can be persuaded to join. It is still unclear if and when he will get his discussion with Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich but that is the encounter which will tell him and City much more about what the future holds.
Eto'o is prepared to leave the Nou Camp if what he considers to be a "proper" club come in for him, and reports in Spain have suggested he is ready to take considerably less than the £200,000 a week City were offering. But if that doesn't happen, he has nothing to lose by staying and from January he can start to negotiate his own deal at another club.
The City chief executive, Garry Cook, who has been in Brazil at Robinho's wedding, hinted at the disappointment to come when he said earlier yesterday that "there are some people who will choose to come, and some who won't choose to come. We don't want to be held to ransom, and have very clear directives about what it is we want to try to get done."
That appears to have been a reference to Eto'o and the tension still surrounding Carlos Tevez's proposed move. There is a feeling that Tevez's representatives might be waiting to see if Chelsea warm to the idea of signing the free agent, should their pursuit of Bayern Munich's Franck Ribéry come to nothing. Chelsea have never unequivocally rejected the idea of signing the Argentine. Despite Cook's reassurances, he could badly do without seeing another target slip away.Reuse content