Mark Hughes stepped up the speed of the Manchester City juggernaut last night, making an extraordinary personal appeal to the England captain John Terry to "reignite" his career by joining the club for their assault on the Premier League top four.
In ebullient mood, with the purchase of striker Emmanuel Adebayor seemingly very close for a fee near to Arsenal's £25m asking price and with his £25.5m acquisition Carlos Tevez sitting across the room, the City manager effectively pleaded with Terry to ditch the club he has been with since he was 12-years-old and applied his own footballing career to make his case. "From my own experience, when you have been with a club a long time, you maybe get to a point when you need a new challenge, when you think a change of scenery would just reignite certain things within you," Hughes said. "It is not a question of money it is about a different challenge, a different stage in his life and career, and maybe that is why there hasn't been a response because John is seriously thinking in those terms. I went through that process myself and I can understand if that is the way he is thinking. We would like to think we could offer John Terry a different challenge."
The significance of Hughes making such an utterance cannot be overstated and is clearly designed to put pressure on Terry to ask for a transfer. City have been extremely reluctant to speculate on transfer targets in the past few weeks for fear of the same hubristic consequences which befell them when the Kaka deal fell apart in January, but Hughes, well-briefed on Terry's state of mind, has touched precisely on some of the defender's sentiments.
The battle to win Terry is by no means won. Chelsea were relieved last night to learn that their captain will join his team-mates tomorrow for the flight to the United States for the first leg of the club's 10-day pre-season tour. But the 28-year-old has still not made up his mind how he will handle the refusal of club owner Roman Abramovich to allow him to speak to City, following their £280,000-a-week pay offer. City officials, meanwhile, are expected in the capital today to seek the new work permit that Adebayor will need if he is to move from Arsenal. A deal may be concluded today, though as of late last night no medical had been planned for him at City. Reports from Catalunya this morning suggest that Arsène Wenger might be interested in Samuel Eto'o, who effectively rejected City, though his wage demands present a major problem.
Yet Terry (right) is the player Hughes wants to make his talisman. Though he and Hughes never played together at Stamford Bridge the Chelsea captain would have seen Hughes as a major figure for the last three years of his progression through the junior ranks.
The feelings were mutual, Hughes suggested. "I've had fantastic respect for John Terry, ever since I saw him at Chelsea when I played there myself," he said. "He is a great player, an outstanding captain and an outstanding person. If the opportunity presents itself to bring a player of his calibre to the club we will do our utmost to bring that about." Chelsea will not be placated by the manager's qualifying statement that, "he's very much a Chelsea player at this moment in time. So we have to respect that.
"We would like the opportunity to speak to John Terry but as yet that hasn't been forthcoming," he said. "We've been reasonably successful in our dealings in this window and there is still plenty of time to get the players we feel we need. If we get the strikers we want we still can't be comfortable because we know there are other areas we need to strengthen than just the attacking ones."
Hughes did not reject a suggestion that bringing Terry to Eastlands would be a more spectacular signing than Tevez. Marquee international names would follow on, he said. "There are other occasions when we can try and acquire a player like Samuel Eto'o."
City are hopeful of having Adebayor with them for some of their own pre-season tour of South Africa, for which they depart this morning – with a small group, believed to include Tevez, diverting first to Abu Dhabi to meet the individuals who are funding the club's spending spree.