Manchester city have earmarked the young Partizan Belgrade defender Stefan Savic to strengthen their defence for next season, with manager Roberto Mancini seemingly unconvinced that Bolton Wanderers' Gary Cahill should be pursued.
The 20-year-old Savic, who attracted Arsenal's interest last summer and was linked with Chelsea before last January's transfer window, may cost City as much as €10m (£8.9m) though sources in the Serbian capital yesterday suggested the bidding process had begun at a figure considerably lower than that – around €7m. Partizan are reluctant to part company with Savic before the qualifying rounds of the Champions League, which will see the Serbian champions face Shkendija of Macedonia in the second qualifying round two weeks from now, and could entail two more two-leg encounters before the group stage.
Following a relaxation of Uefa rules governing cup-tied players last March, Savic would be eligible to play for City in the group stage of the tournament despite appearing for the Serbians in preliminary rounds, though Partizan are unlikely to negotiate in earnest before their own interest in Europe is over and are understood to be reluctant to lose the player before January.
Savic, who came off the bench against Arsenal for Partizan in the Champions League last season, made his debut for Montenegro as a utility right-back against Switzerland in England's Euro 2012 qualifying group last October and played in the same role against Fabio Capello's side days later.
But he was not entirely comfortable in either game – Ashley Young gave him a difficult time in the 0-0 draw at Wembley on 12 October – and he is a more natural centre-back. City see him as more of a player for the future than an immediate first-choice centre-half, though Mancini does seem far more enthusiastic about him than securing Cahill at twice the price, despite football administrator Brian Marwood's conviction that the Bolton defender would be an asset.
"If we lose Savic, coach [Aleksandar] Stanojevic would be in trouble defensively," Partizan's sporting director Mladen Krstajic said yesterday. "Therefore, Savic can leave only if we find adequate replacement at the back."
Goalkeeper Shay Given may be the first player to be transferred from the club this summer, with Aston Villa providing the most concrete and realistic evidence that they can put a deal together. Several clubs have expressed interest. One bookmaker suspended betting on Given leaving for Villa late yesterday, though a deal does not seem imminent. Price could be the most challenging part of negotiations, with £5m understood to be a negotiating figure. Reports that James Milner may also be heading back to Villa Park do not correspond with City's current activity.
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