City launch £12m bid for Santa Cruz

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The Independent Football

Manchester City last night bid £12m for the striker Roque Santa Cruz. The offer, according to sources at Blackburn Rovers, was being given serious consideration by the chairman, John Williams, despite the insistence of the manager, Paul Ince, that the 26-year-old Paraguayan was not for sale.

Blackburn, having sold David Bentley to Tottenham Hotspur, do not want to lose Santa Cruz, who scored 23 goals for them last season, including 19 in the Premier League. But they are aware that the player is keen to leave if a bigger club comes in for him and would like to be reunited with manager Mark Hughes, who quit Ewood Park for Eastlands earlier this summer.

The scale of the offer also appears to contradict claims that City, who have spent £19m on the Brazilian Jo so far this summer and £5m on defender Talal Ben Haim, are facing a cash shortage after their owner, the Thai former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, fled corruption charges. His assets of around £800m have been frozen in Thailand, but City are determined to show they have the funds to compete and support Hughes in the transfer market.

City hope to follow Santa Cruz with two more signings before the transfer window closes at the end of the month. But there may be departures, although City insist they are not willing to sell Vedran Corluka or Stephen Ireland with Hughes saying "their futures are here".

It could be that City will have to raise their bid to £14m for Santa Cruz. But given the crisis they face with strikers – following a thigh injury to Benjani Mwaruwari which rules him out of the first few months of the season and with Jo on Olympic duty – they may be willing to increase their offer. Hughes is desperate for Santa Cruz to arrive before Sunday's league opener at Aston Villa, especially as Darius Vassell is also now injured and will be out for around 10 weeks after suffering ligament damage. Hughes, at present, has to choose between Valeri Bojinov, Ronaldo Bianchi and the youngsters Felipe Caicedo, Danny Sturridge and Ched Evans.

On Tuesday Hughes stressed that he was staying at City, who face FC Midtjylland in the Uefa Cup tonight, amid speculation that he could leave. He admitted it had been a "difficult week".

Provisional Manchester City squad to face FC Midtjylland tonight: Hart, Corluka, Onuoha, Richards, Dunne, Ben Haim, Ball, Garrido, Fernandes, Hamann, Ireland, Johnson, Etuhu, Elano, Bianchi, Bojinov, Evans, Sturridge, Castillo, Schmeichel, Caicedo.

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