City make Henry top target for summer

Barcelona striker becomes next big-name target after collapse of Kaka deal
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The Independent Football

Manchester City have conceded defeat in their pursuit of a marquee signing in this transfer window but will consider returning to Barcelona for Thierry Henry this summer, having received an indication that the Frenchman did not feel January was the right time to leave the Nou Camp for the Premier League club's project.

The City manager, Mark Hughes, and executive chairman, Garry Cook, would both like Henry at Eastlands and the chastening experience of the past few days, as their pursuit of Kaka blew up in their faces, has not put them off the idea of high-profile signings this summer.

Doubts over Robinho not being around by then lessened last night when it emerged that the player had apologised to Hughes in a telephone call. Robinho assured the City manager he would be back in Manchester at the weekend and, after fining him two weeks' wages (£320,000), the club hope that will be an end to the matter.

City last night completed the signing of Nigel de Jong from Hamburg. The Ducth international midfielder has agreed a four-and-a-half-year deal after the clubs settled on a fee of £17m.

Though Henry has settled at the Nou Camp after his turbulent start to life there, he appears to fit City's profile of a player whose broader image rights could have value. He would also understand Cook's notion about maximising footballers' intellectual property rights. Cook and City believe that a failure by Kaka's father, Bosco Leite, and his wider entourage, to "get" the image rights idea contributed to the collapse of the club's quest. The French player, whose Barcelona contract expires in 2011, would probably command a price of around £14m – £2m less than Barcelona paid for him. The club have certainly not been left with the impression that their pursuit of the striker is a lost cause.

Henry's age would appear to raise more of a question mark than his willingness to abandon the prospect of Champions League football next season with a resurgent Barcelona. He will be 32 at the start of next season. He indicated in a recent interview with a Spanish sports magazine he might be looking for a Beckham-style challenge in the US, rather than add to his 15 years at the top level. "My career will be over soon and, being a striker, things go even faster," Henry told the magazine. "I have never run as much as I do at Barcelona. Physically I am OK and the way I run here demonstrates that, but the hotels and the travelling take its toll. When my career in Europe ends I have always said that I would like to play in the United States and it seems that is the way it is going to be."

Cook's more immediate concern is reinforcing Hughes' side for the push towards a Uefa Cup place. The lack of an out-an-out striker and a convincing centre-half are a serious concern and, though Cook appears to be under the impression that Arsenal's Kolo Touré is out of reach, he is still interested in signing him. "He's not for sale is he? I don't know," Cook said.

Another potential target for the summer, rather than now, is Manchester United's Carlos Tevez as Hughes is a fan of his. But City accept they will not now be signing the Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon at any stage.

Neither has Cook given up hope of signing Roque Santa Cruz from Blackburn Rovers, despite manager Sam Allardyce's declaration that it will take a "knockout" offer of £30m to £40m – equivalent to the immediate cost of relegation to Rovers – to bring him to the club and that bids of around £18m tabled so far are not even in range.

"The last I heard, which was from Mr Allardyce, was that they were looking to bring in another striker before they make a decision," Cook said.

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