City's pursuit of players moving at snail's pace

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Manchester City are facing a monumental struggle to recruit for the central defensive berth which appears to present their most acute weakness.

The club's pursuit of Chelsea's Brazilian Alex appears to be a lost cause – Chelsea are evidently unwilling to release a player for whom they resisted a £20m bid from Real Madrid last summer – and attempts to secure the services of Kolo Touré are proving equally challenging. Both Arsenal and player are blowing hot and cold, though City were heartened by a change of mood music from the Emirates last Friday, having all but conceded defeat on the issue days earlier. The proposed move for a player expected to cost £12-15m is still said by one source to be "on and off on a daily basis".

Suggestions via sources in Spain that the Ivorian's brother Yaya Touré is also in City's sights are accurate, though the idea had been to hire the Barcelona player in the summer, with Kolo's presence at the club by then conceivably an added attraction.

The pursuit of Roque Santa Cruz and Scott Parker also inched on yesterday though the pace was frustrating some at the club, who are aware of the need to reinforce Mark Hughes' depleted side before the trip to Portsmouth on Saturday. The Blackburn manager Sam Allardyce indicated that a bid had still to be lodged for Santa Cruz and though he said he would not like to sell him he was by no means unequivocal on that point.