Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini last night declared that Edin Dzeko's arrival gives him the finest strike force in Europe and will help him to mount an assault on the Premier League title. He admitted, though, that he is growing increasingly worried about the knee injury which may keep Mario Balotelli out for another month.
Mancini believes the £27m signing Dzeko will make the critical difference in deadlocked games, the volume of which which have caused City to be accused of a lack of ambition. The Wolfsburg striker's arrival completes what the Italian called "my ideal squad".
Agreeing that the Bosnian could be the difference between first and second place in the title race, Mancini said: "In big games, like [the stalemate] in London against Arsenal, it would probably have been a different game had he been playing."
The manager is speaking freely of City as title contenders now, though his face – as well as his words – betrayed the deep concern he feels that the 20-year-old Balotelli's recurrent knee trouble, first sustained five months ago, is still keeping him out. "It's the same knee," Mancini said. "I'm worried because everything is strange. It's strange for a meniscus problem to continue for two months and I'm worried at this moment because I didn't think that he must rest for another four weeks. This is an important moment for us."
The consequences of Balotelli's delayed return to first-team contention include the impact on his attempts to acclimatise in Manchester. His first instinct is always to return to the family home in Brescia and his family believe that extended periods away are needed to enable him to settle. Mancini had hoped that the keyhole surgery the striker underwent in September on the lateral meniscus – a crucial structure in the knee which he damaged in the final moments of his City debut, in the Europa League play-off against Timisoara on 19 August – had resolved the problem. But he aggravated it during his hat-trick game against Aston Villa on 28 December and, with Dzeko and Carlos Tevez the first-choice partnership, the prospects of him delivering substantially in his first season are now looking slim.
Balotelli's absence underlines the need for Dzeko, whose erudite performance at the press conference City staged to present him yesterday revealed that self-confidence is not a quality he lacks. Dzeko is well versed in Manchester lore, has already viewed Blue Moon Rising, the film chronicle of last season, and spoke eagerly of the Old Trafford Manchester derby on 12 February.
"A lot of people told me that mostly fans from Manchester are fans of Manchester City and from the other cities, more for Manchester United," Dzeko said. "I have to say it was a very emotional film and I saw a lot of things that happened in the last years. I saw people living for the club. It is something fantastic how people love the club despite them not winning a trophy in the last 34 years. It is amazing. They are very loyal to the club. I helped Wolfsburg win the first Bundesliga title in their history and I'd like to make history here."
Despite the troubled history between their countries, it is understood that Bosnian Dzeko and City's Serbian full-back Aleksandar Kolarov have become close companions already. "Well, we don't come from the same country but we speak the same language and he's told me, 'I am here for you'," Dzeko said.
The 24-year-old, who scored 66 times in 111 games for Wolfsburg, said there was "nothing concrete" in United's interest in him – Sir Alex Ferguson questions whether he has adequate pace to thrive in the Premier League – but declared that his goal at Old Trafford in last season's Champions League group stage has given him belief for next month's game at the same stadium.
Mancini said he may play Dzeko, Tevez, Balotelli, David Silva and Adam Johnson at the same time. "With Edin, we maybe will have more chances to score from crosses," he said. "We had a bit of a problem with that before, because we didn't have the players to do that." The manager also raised the prospect of two or three more signings this summer, though Michel Platini, the president of European football's governing body, Uefa, warned yesterday that clubs will have to "face the music" if they do not comply with Uefa's new financial fair play (FFP) rules.
Uefa's latest figures show spending on player wages up almost 10 per cent – and increasing at a faster rate than income. Under FFP rules, clubs will face bans from European competition from the 2014-15 season if they spend more than they earn in the three years before.
Manchester City's recent £121m losses mean they are the English club facing the greatest difficulty in abiding by the rules – even though owners are also allowed to inject £12m a year into their club. Andrea Traverso, Uefa's head of licensing, said: "We are in talks with [City] – they are aware of the rules and they probably have a strategy to raise their income."
Financial fair play rules: How they will work
Michel Platini reiterated yesterday that European clubs will have to comply with the financial fair play regulations if they want to compete in Uefa competitions.
* Ultimately, clubs must break even. But Uefa has allowed for an 'acceptable deviation', so clubs can record an aggregate loss of €45m (£37.4m) over the three years leading up to the 2013-14 season.
* This loss will be allowed only if it is equity (investment in return for shares), rather than a loan.
* Over the following three-year period, to the end of 2016-17, the permitted loss will drop to €30m (£24.9m).
* Clubs can continue to borrow for certain projects, such as developing the stadium, training or youth facilities. These costs are not factored into the break-even calculations.
* Uefa has a number of punishments at its disposal, starting with warnings and extending to disqualification from its competitions.
* Platini said yesterday that "the clubs will comply, or they will not play".
* Uefa's general secretary, Gianni Infantino, clarified: "There may be intermediate measures. We would have to ask why. Maybe there would be a warning first, but certainly, we would have to bar clubs in breach of the rules from playing in the Champions League or the Europa League. Otherwise, we lose all credibility."
- More about:
- David Silva
- French Football
- Manchester City
- Premier League
- UEFA Champions League