City look to Distin after balking at £15m for Upson

Ian Herbert
Tuesday 11 August 2009 00:00 BST
O'Neill has been linked with a move for Distin
O'Neill has been linked with a move for Distin (GETTY IMAGES)

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Louise Thomas

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Manchester City are ready to move to bring their former captain Sylvain Distin back to the club, as West Ham's demands for Matthew Upson's services are proving higher than the Premier League's big spenders are willing to pay.

A conversation between Everton chairman Bill Kenwright and City executive chairman Garry Cook on Friday evening has made City less optimistic than ever that a third bid for their preferred central defender – Joleon Lescott – would be worthwhile and though Upson has always been third in line after Lescott and John Terry, the figure of £13m – rising to £15m – which West Ham would expect for the England international is well above Cook's valuation. City have persistently said that they are unwilling to pay the kind of inflated figure, known as a "City price", for players.

That leaves Mark Hughes contemplating a move for Distin, who headed for Portsmouth under a cloud shortly before Sven Goran Eriksson arrived in the summer of 2007, when City had just finished four points off the relegation zone and, to the Frenchman's mind, were going backwards. Distin, a left-sided centre-half like Lescott, would be a popular signing among many City fans – with the prevailing view among most being that he and Richard Dunne were the individuals who saved City from relegation on more than one occasion during the managerial days of Kevin Keegan and Stuart Pearce.

City might have their work cut out enticing the £3m-valued Distin back. Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has been interested for some time in signing a player who is understood to be also on Aston Villa's radar. Distin appears to be a far more likely target than Stoke City's Ryan Shawcross for Benitez, though he would also seem to have more chance of regular football at City than at Anfield, where he would be a fourth choice behind Jamie Carragher, Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel. The 31-year-old's empathy with a club for whom he played 178 times and was captain for three years until 2006 may play in City's favour and would outweigh the abuse he received from a small contingent of City fans during matches with Portsmouth. The player's arrival would probably presage the end of Dunne's nine-year City career, with Sunderland his most likely destination.

Wales manager John Toshack was angered to find that City "forgot" to inform the Football Association of Wales that his captain Craig Bellamy was not fit for the trip to Montenegro for tomorrow's match. Toshack needed to have the situation explained to him on arrival at Podgorica Airport yesterday afternoon, having left Cardiff on an early-morning flight with the rest of his squad.

Hughes had cast doubt over Bellamy's involvement in the Montenegro match last week and Wales were half expecting a problem. City, who acknowledged Wales should have been notified before yesterday, said Bellamy had suffered a reaction to a knee injury during Saturday's friendly win over Celtic.

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