The Manchester City chairman, Khaldoon al-Mubarak, said yesterday that the club's Abu Dhabi owners have always believed that their fourth season in charge – the next campaign – was going to be the one in which the club would "really go for it" and that they were ready to make the biggest strides yet.
City are already encountering agents and clubs talking huge figures for players – including £30m for Alexis Sanchez, Udinese's Chilean striker – and Roberto Mancini faces a challenging summer with Mubarak suggesting only "one or two" signings are needed while the manager wants more.
But though the spending spree is over, Mubarak's interview with the club's website made it clear that third or fourth place in the Premier League is only a staging post, to Abu Dhabi minds. "This was fun; this was great – but believe me the big challenge is next year," Mubarak said. "This season has been a good accomplishment but this sets us up very well for phase two of the progression of this club. Phase two starts next [season.] Sheikh Mansour always felt that it was going to be year four as the year we were going to go for it. Being fourth is a big accomplishment [but] this is one step further. We want to win the league."
Mubarak said Mancini had been "very clear to us" on what the club needed this summer and declared that "the manager will have the final say". But he said there would not be breakneck spending. "Hold your horses, I believe we have quantity now," he declared. Uefa's Financial Fair Play regime was now "driving" the club, insisted the chairman, who said that stadium naming rights were one of the options being examined to help City reduce last year's £121m losses, which are expected to rise when the next financial statement is published in October – before they start to fall.
The £30m that Udinese's canny owner Giampaolo Pozzo will want for Sanchez also reflects the challenging weeks ahead for City. Pozzo has established the kind of scouting model that City are attempting to introduce, typically investing several millions of pounds in promising teenage players, which the club then sell on for a huge mark-up. Sanchez was signed for €3m in 2006 from Cobreloa in his native country, loaned back to Colo-Colo and Cacique – both in Chile – and then River Plate in Argentina. Only now is Pozzo ready to sell him for a 10-fold profit. Prising him away will be more difficult if Udinese, currently fourth in Serie A, secure Champions League football by earning a point at home to champions Milan this weekend.
Edinson Cavani, the Napoli forward, has also been in City's sights, albeit at the unrealistic figure of £50m, though prospects of a move for the player have faded after he concluded negotiations for a five-year deal designed to keep him at the club until 2016, according to Il Corriere dello Sport. Bolton's Gary Cahill is another player on City's radar.