Roberto Mancini last night raised the prospect of Manchester City heading back into the transfer market to seek a new winger, after confirming that Adam Johnson will be out of the game for three months with ankle ligament damage.
City yesterday turned down Shaun Wright-Phillips' transfer request, and though the manager also said "we still have another 24 hours [in the transfer market] so anything can happen", he seemed pessimistic about the prospects of buying an immediate replacement for Johnson. Udinese's Chilean winger Alexis Sanchez has attracted the attention of several Premier League clubs and Mancini also likes Aston Villa's Ashley Young, though Villa have already told Liverpool they are reluctant to sell. The price for Young would be between £15m and £18m.
Johnson saw a specialist yesterday to discuss scans he underwent on Friday, the day after he was injured in training and his loss is a severe blow. It will also cause Fabio Capello a headache because the former Middlesbrough player will be absent from England's friendly with Denmark in Copenhagen next month and, more importantly, the Euro 2012 qualifier with Wales in Cardiff on 26 March.
Mancini said it was "difficult for us to let Shaun Wright-Phillips go now", though the reason he has not left Eastlands so far is the failure of any prospective club to make a loan deal for him permanent this summer. Wright-Phillips is unhappy that the interest of Fulham and Bolton Wanderers has not brought him a release from the club and feels that a nine-year association at City entitles him to a move. But Fulham have been unwilling to undertake to buy the player for £3.8m this summer if they survive in the Premier League. Bolton, too, are only interested in a loan deal.
The timing of Wright-Phillips' transfer request was bad, coming just before the full prognosis on Johnson became clear. "This will be a very big problem because he is an important player," Mancini said. "The injury is like the one Aleksandar Kolarov had earlier this season. We do not have another player like Adam." The 23-year-old has scored six times in 16 games this season and, despite some differences with Mancini, has become a significant contributor to the team's attacking play.
Though Emmanuel Adebayor, Wayne Bridge and Roque Santa Cruz have all left City on loan deals, with possible buy-outs attached, Wright-Phillips is the player City felt they were most likely to be able to sell outright, which is why they have dismissed the offer of a mere loan.
City must reduce their payroll to enable them to meet Uefa Financial Fair Play rules and are aware that by merely loaning out players they face the risk of them all returning to the payroll at the end of the season.