City tempted by Tevez

Hughes turns to new targets as £18.5m bid for Santa Cruz appears doomed
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The Independent Football

Carlos Tevez is seeking escape routes from Manchester United, with at least one Premier League club having already been alerted to the player's possible availability this summer.

It would appear that a number of clubs are being made aware of the fluidity of the Argentine striker's situation at Old Trafford, since the club with whom informal contact has been made believe that others have also been informed. Though Real Madrid would appear to be favourites to sign Tevez this summer should United decide not to turn his loan into a £32m acquisition, Chelsea are also likely contenders. So, too, are Manchester City, whose latest – and seemingly final – £18.5m bid for the Blackburn Rovers striker Roque Santa Cruz appeared to be failing last night.

It is Tevez's ardent desire to stay at United when his loan deal expires this summer. His fine display in United's FA Cup fourth-round win over Tottenham last weekend was of the kind which may help persuade the club's manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, that the sum being asked for the player by his owners – an investment fund led by Kia Joorabchian – is one worth paying. Internazionale are believed to be interested, as well as Real and Chelsea, but the most intriguing prospect is a move across Manchester to Eastlands.

Tevez would be an even more attractive proposition if City have only Craig Bellamy to lead their attack come the end of the season, and it is increasingly likely that Santa Cruz is staying at Ewood Park. Blackburn will not accept the £18.5m bid and only a knockout blow of £30m-plus will tempt a club with no replacement striker lined up. City are likely to pursue other options in the four remaining days of the transfer window but Bellamy may have to suffice.

There had been recent uncertainty at the highest level at City as to whether a United player would be accepted at Eastlands, but the club's manager Mark Hughes is known to be an admirer of Tevez and would certainly be interested if any contact were to be made. When City sat down to calculate which marquee signing they would aim for in the January transfer window, Tevez is known to have been on the list, along with Kaka and Lionel Messi, before Kaka, the individual who best seemed to represent the image-rights model City were pursuing, was settled upon. The fact Tevez was considered in that bracket then would appear to make him an attractive target now.

Hughes certainly does not have the £19m Brazilian Jo in his plans. He hinted on Wednesday after the 2-1 win over Newcastle that he is prepared to send him out on loan. Jo could possibly interest Everton, though no deal with is imminent.

It remains an anxious waiting game for Tevez, with still no sign of United sealing the deal which chief executive David Gill indicated last summer would be forthcoming by the turn of the year. The player's representatives are reluctant to be seen to be pressing United. The fee has been agreed, so too the £80,000-a-week salary, and though a deal will possibly not be forthcoming until the summer, the delay appears to be a product of the current financial climate. Why lay out all that money on a player now when United can do so in the summer, with first rights on him if they stump up the pre-agreed sum? Though United have declared they are confident of securing a superior sponsorship deal when their annual £19m shirt deal with AIG ends next year, the insurance giant's decision to step down has brought the financial crisis to the club's door.

From the player's perspective, though, the prospect of the transfer reaching fruition must look as far away as ever, even given the first-team opportunities provided by Wayne Rooney's recent hamstring injury. Real's interest is particularly tantalising but Joorabchian would not countenance the mildest communication with the Spanish club, given the rancour which surrounded their pursuit of United's Cristiano Ronaldo last summer. That said, the radio interview Tevez gave an Argentinian radio station earlier this month shows that the press reporting of it did not exaggerate the frustration he is feeling.

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