The Manchester City chairman Khaldoon al-Mubarak said last night that the club would sign only two players this summer, underlining the impression that manager Roberto Mancini will not find his board willing to spend vast amounts as they prepare to compete in the Champions League.
"It won't be like last summer, or the summer before," said Mubarak. "What you will see this year is strengthening the squad in areas that we feel require more depth. We don't need quantity, as today we have quality. We just need a couple of players."
The chairman's words, part of an interview that will be screened on the City website today, reinforce City football administrator Brian Marwood's message on Sunday that there would be only "tinkering" this summer. Mancini has said that "this is the summer we can buy" and publicly voiced his fears after the FA Cup final triumph over Stoke City that City could end up being out of the Champions League places at the end of next season – like Tottenham this year – if they do not spend.
Mubarak indicated that buying players would be a collective process – and it does seem clear that Mancini will not dictate the process. "It's always been a team approach," the chairman said. "We have a great operation with everyone involved, headed by our CEO Garry Cook, who I must say has done a phenomenal job for us. I'm so proud of what he has accomplished."
City's activity may depend on the destiny of Carlos Tevez, who is no nearer to committing his future to the club, despite the optimistic note sounded by Mancini after City climbed to third place in the Premier League on Tuesday night.
Mancini said he had been told by Tevez that he wants to stay after the 3-0 win over Stoke but the player is actually no closer to resolving uncertainties over his future and there has been no contact from the club to seek a resolution to the impasse with the captain. Some within City do not share Mancini's optimism about the player's intentions, which the manager expressed 72 hours after the Argentine had said he would need to consult his family.
Why Mancini spoke so confidently is unclear. He may be attempting to force the issue, though City's Nigel de Jong has delivered the most impassioned case yet for the need to keep the striker after his two goals sank Stoke. "Where in Europe or in the world can you see a striker who has such a high-scoring rate, plus that work rate that Carlos has?" De Jong said. "He's compact and small but he wins every battle with every defender – where do you see that? Where can you find a striker similar to him? There are very few. There are maybe a couple but he is one of the greats at the moment. So it's important for us and the club that he stays here."
Mancini feels the same, though the struggle to win Tevez's heart to the City cause has gone on for more than a year and the manager's words were a source of some bemusement to the striker yesterday. De Jong said he did not know whether Tevez would stay. "It's hard to say at the moment," he said. "He's made it clear to the squad he still sees himself as a Manchester City player and we hope he will continue to be. For us the main target is this season and we'll see what happens in the summer. The speculation has already begun regarding who is coming and who is going out of City."
Finishing third in the league would mean avoiding a Champions League play-off. "It won't be easy in that round," De Jong said. "You have to try and get third if you can."
Mubarak said of the FA Cup success and Champions League qualification: "It is an incredible feeling. I'm absolutely delighted for everyone involved in the club. The team, the players, coaches and the fans of course. I feel strongly a winning mentality is coming into the team. We have an incredible squad with so many talented individuals and a lot of heart in that squad. We have an incredible foundation for incredible years ahead."
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