City close in on £30m Dzeko deal as Santa Cruz looks for the exit

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The Independent Football

Manchester City were last night moving closer to concluding a £30m deal to make Edin Dzeko the first big name signing of the transfer window, following talks over the Wolfsburg player.

Though Sir Alex Ferguson ultimately decided against moving for Dzeko, who scored at Old Trafford for the German side last season, because he believed he lacked pace, the 24-year-old's aerial power and ability to finish with both feet provides Roberto Mancini with another type of striker, as well as an insurance policy against the continued unpredictability of Carlos Tevez and Mario Balotelli.

Dzeko's probable arrival – City want to conclude a deal within the next week – represents reward for an 18-month pursuit of the Bosnian international, who has netted 84 times in 142 games for the 2008-09 Bundesliga champions.

Mark Hughes first identified Dzeko as a potential target for City, though the two clubs were some distance apart in the summer, as Wolfsburg refused to budge on their £42m valuation. The German side's struggle in the Bundesliga under Steve McLaren – they are currently 24 points adrift of the summit, with hopes of Champions League qualification looking extremely slim – has opened the door again for City, with the Germans concluding that they have nothing to lose by doing business now.

Dzeko's arrival will leave Emmanuel Adebayor's destiny unclear and it appears to spell the end of Roque Santa Cruz's unhappy City career. Lazio want him on loan until the end of the season, with a view to a permanent move, though the club's president, Claudio Lotito, suggested yesterday that the Paraguyan has rejected such a deal because he wants a permanent transfer immediately. "We take into account Santa Cruz's reaction and his desire to make any transfer permanent," Lotito said.

Balotelli has declared that suggestions he wants a move back to Italy of his own are false. "I'm very happy. Journalists in Italy say I want to go to Milan but I'm here, I work hard in training and the results are on the pitch," the 20-year-old declared.

And his team-mate Nigel de Jong yesterday encouraged him to learn from his own difficult past six months. De Jong has been unwilling until now to discuss the outcry which followed his challenge which broke the leg of Newcastle's Hatem Ben Arfa – he was dropped from the Dutch national side as a result – and the way it has been taken with his kick at Spain's Xabi Alonso in the World Cup final to question his motives. But the midfielder said the incidents had not caused him to change his game and that Balotelli should take some inspiration to overcome the difficulties of his own.

"Everything is a mental thing and about character," De Jong said. "What doesn't break you can't kill you and that's what I have tried to tell Mario. Just try to do your best and let other people talk about you.

"I'm still the same Nigel de Jong that I was. It's not about changing your game, it's about getting your head down on the pitch. It's about talking with your feet and less with your mouth. That's what I had to do and that's my mentality. That's also why I try to bring it to the guys in the dressing room, like Mario.

"He is still a young lad. He is coming back from a difficult couple of weeks, but he is still here and the team is there to help him. You can only become a great player by working hard every day, though, and believing in yourself, with the backing of your team-mates. We will provide that, but he has to do the rest himself."

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