Manchester City yesterday offered Barcelona £25m for the striker Samuel Eto'o and hope to finalise a deal for the player this week. The success of the club's third major strike in the transfer market this summer is dependent on personal terms being agreed after Barcelona signalled that they were prepared to let the player go.
The Barcelona president Joan Laporta paved the way for the move by describing the offer from City for the 28-year-old as "stratospheric" and claiming that it would make Eto'o "the best-paid player in the world". Sources at City have denied that Eto'o will be granted the kind of wages he is understood to be chasing – £190,000 per week after tax – but the club now expect to make him their third major signing of the summer.
With the deals for Gareth Barry (£12m) and Roque Santa Cruz (£18m) already agreed, City are determined that their major transfer business will be out of the way by the weekend when they depart to South Africa on a pre-season tour. They hope that will also mean deals for Carlos Tevez at around £25.5m, Joleon Lescott from Everton for £15m and Kolo Touré from Arsenal for £12m.
Eto'o is thought to have entrusted his negotiations with City to his lawyer Jose Maria Mesalles while Barcelona have made it clear that they are already looking at replacements. The new man in is understood to be Keirrison, the 20-year-old Palmeiras striker whose impending departure has caused such divisions in the Brazilian club that his coach Wanderley Luxemburgo was sacked yesterday after refusing to pick the striker again.
Eto'o has only one year left on his contract at Barcelona and Laporta admitted that with no signs of a new deal, it will be hard for the club to ignore City's offer. Laporta told a radio station: "Eto'o has a stratospheric offer from City, which would make him the best paid player in the world. It has become clear that he has this enormous offer. He wants to stay but an offer like this is very difficult to refuse. If Eto'o accepts this stratospheric offer we will have to bring someone in."
City have no desire to repeat the chaotic scenes at the end of last summer's transfer window when the late takeover by the Abu Dhabi investors meant that they could only use their new-found wealth to buy players on the final day. They hope to have definite answers from Tevez and Lescott this week before the players meet for pre-season training in order to allow Mark Hughes an untroubled preparation for the new season.
There is understood to be no interest from City in signing Arjen Robben from Real Madrid who has been made available this summer, despite City being one of the many clubs linked with him. It is still not clear whether Barcelona will keep Keirrison or use him as a part of the deal to sign David Villa from Valencia. The future of the Spain striker, who will be back from the Confederations Cup in South Africa today, is key to the major moves in Spanish football.
Villa's destiny will also dictate whether Real Madrid pursue their interest in the Lyons striker Karim Benzema who is among the most sought after players in Europe this summer. Manchester United and Arsenal are also interested but it is becoming evident that only Madrid and City are prepared to offer the very highest fees for the best players this summer.