Manchester City are ready to return to Arsenal – the club whose manager, Arsène Wenger, has been subjected to more approaches from the Abu Dhabi owners than any other – with Robin van Persie a possible recruit next summer when the gap soon to be left by Carlos Tevez is eventually filled.
City appear to be in no hurry to prepare an immediate replacement for Tevez in the probable circumstances of his departure for a fee the club feel may dip to below £20m and it is impossible to make any firm predictions four months away from the next window.
But the idea of adding Van Persie to a side already including Samir Nasri and Kolo Touré – former Wenger employees – is one that intrigues Mancini. An approach for a player likely to cost the club £30m is unlikely to be made in the January transfer window but the prospect remains a dreadful one for Wenger, who could find himself in a repeat of this summer's futile battle to retain Nasri.
It is not yet clear how City's spending will be affected next summer by the financial fair play regime (FFP), which will be introduced from next season. Working on the assumption that Tevez was signed for £45m – neither City nor his representative Kia Joorabchian has been prepared to reveal the figure – his value on the club's balance sheet has already dropped by £18m.
That figure must be amortised, or written down, by £9m for each of the five years of the deal concluded in 2009, leaving his current value on the club's books at £27m. But his sale for £20m would still represent a stinging £25m loss. Tevez's £250,000-a-week wages are not counted against the FFP break-even calculations this year. But if City were to retain him until the end of his contract, next year's wages would be counted – another incentive to part company with him quickly.
A move for 28-year-old van Persie would suggest that City remain confident of meeting the break-even requirement, at a time when other clubs are investing in cheaper, younger players with a far better sell-on value. Van Persie's current contract is thought to be worth around £80,000 a week so a move to the Etihad Stadium would make him another in the six-figure weekly-wage bracket.
City's own balance sheet is enhanced by their £350m 10-year sponsorship deal with Abu Dhabi national airline Etihad, the probity of which Wenger has already questioned.
Van Persie has had offers to leave before. He signed a new contract in 2009 despite Juventus, Internazionale and Chelsea all following the progress of talks. It is the departure of so many key players and the inability of Arsenal to keep pace with Manchester United and City which could prove decisive. The Dutchman has won just one trophy at Arsenal, the FA Cup in 2005. Asked if he could give fans any encouragement that his long-term future is at Arsenal, he said two weeks ago: "I don't know... I can't look into the future."