City target Bellamy to solve striker crisis

Manchester City are considering making a bid for West Ham's Craig Bellamy after Benjani Mwaruwari broke down in training, rupturing a thigh muscle, which means the Zimbabwean striker will miss the first month of the season.

With new record £19m signing Jo not expected back from the Olympics, where he is with the Brazil squad, until September, it means that City are due to go into the first games of the new campaign with their attacking options severely limited.

The City manager, Mark Hughes, has already spoken to the club's board about making an offer for another West Ham player, Lucas Neill, but they are understood to have resisted his request for the right-back whose form has dipped badly in the past year.

While West Ham may be prepared to sell Neill, they have no intention of parting with Bellamy, their £7.5m signing from Liverpool last summer, who spent most of last season on the injury list. Hughes is a great admirer of Bellamy, 29, having managed him for both Wales and Blackburn Rovers – where he also coached Neill. Bellamy has told his present club that he is happy to stay where he is.

City are still assessing what to do following Benjani's injury. Having sold Georgios Samaras and released both Paul Dickov and Emile Mpenza, and with Bernardo Corradi and Rolando Bianchi not part of Hughes' plans, they have been left with a headache. Apart from Darius Vassell, they have youngsters Felipe Caicedo, Ched Evans and Daniel Sturridge.

One hope could be that Valeri Bojinov proves his fitness, but he suffered a setback during the Uefa Cup match against EB Streymur last week.

At the same time City, who are close to agreeing a £5m deal to sign Talal Ben Haim from Chelsea, are believed to be considering a move for the Espanyol right-winger Pablo Zabaleta. Hughes' interest in the Argentinean pre-dates him taking over at City and it is likely that a deal will be struck.

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