Manchester City braced to resist Real Madrid campaign for striker Sergio Aguero

Fear grows at the Etihad that their top scorer will be tempted to return to Madrid this summer

Manchester City believe Real Madrid may be engaging in a deliberate campaign to unsettle Sergio Aguero and, with the future beyond this summer already uncertain for three of their strikers, the club will refuse any notion of the Argentine leaving for the Bernabeu.

Aguero's father-in-law, Diego Maradona, is likely to have caused some nervousness at the Etihad Stadium with his suggestion on Spanish radio last month that "Kun [Aguero] has to play for Real Madrid. If he signed for them, it would be his big break. The best thing would have been to sign for Madrid. He made a mistake."

The striker insisted last month that "none of the stories about Real Madrid" had come from him and that he was happy at the Etihad. But City have an acute need to ensure that Maradona does not influence Aguero's departure because of uncertainty about the futures of Carlos Tevez, Mario Balotelli – whose intentions beyond the end of this season City privately accept they cannot predict – and Edin Dzeko, who has not come up to the mark City expected of his first full season in the Premier League.

Aguero has kept a home in the Spanish capital after his five years with Atletico Madrid and the suggestion for several months has been that Real's Argentine forward, Gonzalo Higuain, plus £8.5m would be offered to take Aguero back to the city. Spanish newspaper Marca, closely linked to Real, claimed that the club had "directly and indirectly" made their interest known to Aguero. City's manager Roberto Mancini, whose own future will be the subject of a review at the end of the season, has said that he will not sell his 21-goal top scorer or exchange him for Higuain.

 

Losing Aguero, who signed a five-year deal last July, worth £40m plus add-ons to Atletico, would be disastrous in a summer when City have more work to do than they had anticipated 12 months ago, when the manager's activity again outstripped boardroom expectations.

The Argentine, who has knuckled down to his work and scored 17 goals in 24 league starts, is one of the players City want to establish a side around as they attempt to introduce more pace and width. Their targets this summer are likely to be centred on the Lille midfielder Eden Hazard – who can inject energy – and a centre-back. The club also need to begin planning for a midfield successor to Gareth Barry. Rebuilding their entire frontline is currently the last thing on the City's mind.

City expect to face competition from Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur for Hazard, who has indicated he wants regular football – and may actually feel he has more chance of getting that at United than City. Tottenham have made the early running for the player, though uncertainties over manager Harry Redknapp's future and the north London club's willingness to pay a substantial fee make City contenders.

City's spending this summer will take place against the backdrop of Uefa's new financial fair play rules, though with a general feeling among the continent's elite clubs that many will fail to comply, it may be that demonstrating a trend towards break-even – if not actually achieving it – will be deemed acceptable

Publicly, the Real manager, Jose Mourinho, has rejected the idea of a Aguero/Higuain swap. Speaking at a press conference ahead of tonight's Champions League quarter-final second leg against Apoel Nicosia, he said: "Last week I had signed for [Manchester] City, [Iker] Casillas was going to Schalke, Higuain to Malaga..."

The club's director of institutional relations, Emilio Butragueno, also dismissed the suggestion of selling Higuain. "He arrived here very young and we regard him as a club player," he said.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

The ZX Spectrum is back

The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

The quirks of work perks

From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

Is bridge becoming hip?

The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

The rise of Lego Clubs

How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
5 best running glasses

On your marks: 5 best running glasses

Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada