City on target in transfer of power

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The Independent Football

Another week, another unveiling of an expensive new recruit at Eastlands; last month it was Gareth Barry, last Wednesday Roque Santa Cruz, and now Carlos Tevez is expected to be confirmed, if not paraded, in the next few days.

It is only four years ago that City's idea of a big summer signing was Darius Vassell for £2 million. Two years later, the ex-Thai prime minister Thaksin "Frank" Shinawatra did it his way (extravagantly) and Sven Goran Eriksson gave the agents a midsummer Christmas by splashing £40m on eight players from abroad.

Last year Abu Dhabi's late takeover and the last-minute acquisition of Robinho pushed the figure to £72m, which could be beaten by the end of August. "The chairman said we are looking to sign five or six players this summer and that still holds true," City's manager Mark Hughes promised at the unveiling of Santa Cruz.

With the Middle Eastern riches behind him, Hughes is in an enviable position, yet a tricky one. As Eriksson discovered, the price of failure, like the price of purchases, will be high. It is just as well he is a well-adjusted figure who in his public pronouncements steers the right course between ambition and fantasy. "We're pleased with where we are at this moment," he said. "We wanted to do as much business as we could early in the window. We've made a good start with Gareth and Roque.

"If we can continue to do deals quickly, we'll be in great shape for the start of the season. It's important for players as well. They like to be settled and understand where they're going on the first day of pre-season."

Supporters torn between concern and excitement that so many attacking players are arriving can be reassured, as Hughes says: "We know there are areas of the team we want to strengthen and those aren't just the attacking spaces. When I'm able to bring players in, maybe others will feel that their future lies elsewhere."

Hughes believes the first trophy City win will be hugely important, even if a Carling Cup is more realistic this season. "We're in a situation where, as a group and as a club, we haven't experienced that for a long time and the first one is the difficult one."

In the longer term, of course, he would like to be challenging Chelsea, Liverpool and especially the club from the other side of Manchester. "We want to get back to the days when we were challenging United for the same trophies on a regular basis. We're not there yet but that is the ambition."

Then Captain Sensible takes over again: "We're not going to put ourselves in the situation where we'll say this year we'll definitely be in the top four. Football is too fluid and unpredictable to start saying things like that, so we won't."