Manchester City last night made the first move in what is expected to be a busy summer of transfer business by tabling a £20m bid for James Milner.
City were waiting for a response last night, though it is highly unlikely that Aston Villa will be willing to consider doing business at that price. Their owner, Randy Lerner, suggested on Tuesday that Milner was not for sale and several bids may be necessary before a deal is struck, probably at a price over £25m.
City sources suggested earlier this week that they anticipated a summer-long pursuit for Milner. Chelsea may also have an interest. They know they need to move quickly because the England manager, Fabio Capello, has told his players that he is unwilling to tolerate transfer negotiations during the World Cup build-up.
Patrick Vieira, meanwhile, is likely to agree a 12-month contract extension with Manchester City, despite an indifferent start at the club and his failure to achieve one of the goals he set himself when he moved to Eastlands in the January transfer window – a place in the French World Cup squad.
Discussions between Vieira and the City chief executive, Garry Cook, have not yet begun but the 33-year-old has taken to life in Manchester, his Trinidadian wife Cheryl is understood to be very settled at their new home in Cheshire and with Roberto Mancini encouraged by the player's concluding weeks of last season, an extension does seem likely to be agreed.
It is possible that Vieira, who has started only eight games for City and scored once, will have to take a further cut in wages. He is already by no means the best-paid player at Eastlands. But he does not appear to be tempted to make the same leap as his old Arsenal team-mate Thierry Henry, who is ready to move to Major League Soccer with the New York Red Bulls.
Another Frenchman in whom Mancini has an interest is Yoann Gourcuff, the Bordeaux midfielder who was at Milan while Mancini was at Internazionale. The 23-year-old, who is in Raymond Domenech's World Cup squad, is a player in Mancini's own playing mould and would provide a creative input behind the front line, operating as an old-fashioned No 10. Though Gourcuff is not as fast as Craig Bellamy, who some sources now suggest may wish to stay at the club next season, or Shaun Wright-Phillips, Mancini's fifth-placed side last season did lack an individual to create opportunities for Carlos Tevez.
Though there have been no approaches either to Bordeaux or the player's representatives, a move for a player valued at £21m is a possibility.
Another intriguing development for City is the sudden availability of Barcelona's Zlatan Ibrahimovic, following David Villa's £34m arrival at the Nou Camp from Valencia yesterday.
Stars in their eyes
Manchester City have been linked with a number of stellar names as they chase Champions League football next season:
Versatile German defender is close to a £11m move from Hamburg.
Would cost upwards of £60m but disaffected at Liverpool situation.
City will have to pay £43m for the highly-rated Benfica defender.
Prolific Ajax forward, also linked with £35m move to neighbours United.
Argentine winger may cost up to £30m from Benfica. Team-mate Angel di Maria has also been linked with City.Reuse content