Manchester City finally began their summer's transfer business yesterday, moving towards a £7m deal for Arsenal's Gaël Clichy – yet another player who has been taken from under Liverpool's noses.
The deal had not been entirely concluded last night, with negotiations still to be concluded on both price and personal terms, a process rendered more difficult by the fact that the player is out of the country. But Clichy may well be the first player to arrive at Eastlands this summer and City's determination to go back to Arsenal – who have already furnished them with Kolo Touré and Emmanuel Adebayor in the past two years – suggests that Roberto Mancini has reservations about the £16m signing Aleksandar Kolarov, who was unconvincing at left-back in his first season after arriving from Lazio.
The move also comes as a blow to Wenger, who had declared hopes that he could persuade the 25-year-old Clichy to stay in north London where he falls out of contract next summer and had failed to agree new terms.
Liverpool had a £5m offer for Clichy turned down earlier this month and Italian giants Roma are also interested in his services, but City's superior offer seems to have delivered a solution to a thorny position for Mancini. Wayne Bridge had looked unconvincing before Kolarov was signed but Pablo Zabaleta deputised for largeperiods of last season. City are also currently involved in the frustrating task of selling loan players to enable them to buy. Blackburn Rovers have made a tentative offer for defender Nedum Onuoha, whose Sunderland loan has ended, and the Ewood Park club are also monitoring Craig Bellamy's situation. They are one of few clubs who might meet Bellamy's wage demands, though Celtic are alsointerested.
Mancini has said he needs another striker, regardless of Carlos Tevez's decision on his own future, and has admitted that he is an enthusiast of Napoli's striker Ezequiel Lavezzi, though the Italian club's president yesterday ridiculed Mancini's claim that the 26-year-old's €30m (£27m) get-out clause was too high as evidence that City could not afford him. Mancini has not ruled out the idea of exploring a move for Fiorentina's 23-year-old forward Alessio Cerci, though any deal for him appears to be some distance off, with neither a fee nor personal terms agreed, despite claims to the contrary in Italy media.