Mancini set for January funds to boost City's title challenge
Manchester City's Abu Dhabi owners are convinced Roberto Mancini can deliver them the Premier League title in his first full season and are ready to back their belief in him by returning to the transfer market next month.
Mancini has insisted that a top-four finish – the target he was set by the City board in August – is the limit of the club's ambition for this campaign and though the board appreciate that the unpredictability of the season, manifest in Monday's 2-1 home defeat to Everton, could deliver any outcome, there is a genuine belief that a first title in 42 years could be theirs.
The board's conviction that Mancini is the man to lead them is such that he has not been set a 70-point target, as his predecessor Mark Hughes was, and must instead achieve only a top-four finish. With that goal in sight, the club will attempt to sign Edin Dzeko, Wolfsburg's prolific striker, next month, to reinforce a front line in which Carlos Tevez has been asked to shoulder too much responsibility. City believe that the move for Dzeko will not be straightforward – talks broke down in the summer because the German club's £45m valuation was £15m higher than City's – but the strong first half to the season strengthens their appeal to the Bosnia international.
There will also be another move for 23-year-old Benfica defender David Luiz, with a belief that a £23m bid may be enough, despite the £40m release clause in the Brazilian's contract.
Beyond that there will not be a vast outlay in January, with only minor tweaks considered necessary at a club which has concluded that Craig Bellamy will not return when his season-long loan spell at Cardiff City is over. But the signing of Dzeko is a significant aim, considering the unpredictability of both Tevez and Mario Balotelli. At 24, Dzeko falls within the younger age range of players that City feel they can work with as they seek Champions League qualification. The tournament's revenues are critical to their attempts to lessen their £133m losses and move within the level of losses permissible under Uefa Financial Fair Play regulations from 2013.
Though there is still some disquiet about the light in which Hughes' departure from Eastlands cast the club – there is a feeling at the highest level that City were vilified for Hughes' sacking simply because news of Mancini's appointment leaked out at the Italian end – Mancini's approach to the job has delighted the board as much as the team's position.
Their belief in him was evident in the decision to sign Balotelli from Internazionale this summer, a move Mancini was intent on. Balotelli yesterday underwent an examination of his left knee, which he injured against Everton. As Mancini had suspected, there is no cause for concern and he will be fit to play at Newcastle on Boxing Day, but his eye-catching acceptance speech on collection of Tuttosport's Golden Boy trophy reveals what a man-management task Mancini has on his hands.
The 20-year-old claimed he is the best player under the age of 21 and that he did not even know who fellow contender Jack Wilshere was. Balotelli, who finished ahead of the Arsenal midfielder, said: "I am delighted to receive this award. Who should have won this award but me? Two years ago I finished sixth and a year ago fourth. It was finally my turn. I don't know who Wilshere is but the next time I play against Arsenal I will keep a close eye on him.
"Perhaps I can show him the Golden Boy trophy and remind him that I won it! To have won this award is a good omen. All I ask for is two things: to win the Premier League and to clinch the Europa League."
City Softies v Tough Toffees: How Manchester City and Everton braved the cold on Monday
There were two approaches to dealing with the –8C temperatures at Eastlands on Monday night. First was the Everton way, which was to wear short-sleeved shirts and run around like billy-o to try to keep warm and go 2-0 up inside 20 minutes as a result.
Second, was the Manchester City way, which was to snood up, pop on some tights, be unable to move due to the amount of clothing and go 2-0 down. Here's who wore what:
Short sleeves, long-sleeve undergarments and gloves: Louis Saha
Short sleeves and long-sleeve undergarments: Diniyar Bilyaletdinov
Long sleeves only: Tony Hibbert, Sylvain Distin, Victor Anichebe, Phillip Neville, Marouane Fellaini
Short sleeves only: Phil Jagielka, Tim Cahill, Leon Osman, Leighton Baines, Jack Rodwell, Seamus Coleman
Long-sleeve goalkeeper jersey: Tim Howard
Short sleeves, long-sleeve undergarments, snoods, gloves and tights: Mario Balotelli, Yaya Touré
Short sleeves, long-sleeve undergarments, snoods and gloves: Carlos Tevez, David Silva
Short sleeves, long-sleeve undergarments and gloves: Adam Johnson, Pablo Zabaleta
Short sleeves and gloves: Kolo Touré
Short sleeves and long-sleeve undergarment: Jo
Short sleeves only: James Milner, Aleksander Kolarov, Gareth Barry, Vincent Kompany
Long-sleeve goalkeeper jersey: Joe Hart
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