City ready to offer £19m for Santa Cruz

Blackburn Rovers tenacity in keeping top striker will be tested by bigger cash bid

Jason Burt,Ian Herbert
Tuesday 27 January 2009 01:00

Manchester City believe that a £19m bid may be enough to persuade Blackburn Rovers to part company with the striker Roque Santa Cruz and are also intent on returning to Arsenal with a final bid for the central defender Kolo Touré.

Executive chairman Garry Cook is not optimistic. "He's not for sale is he? I don't know," he said last week and after the prospects of signing him had initially seemed good, Arsenal have been blowing hot and cold on the issue for several weeks. Nevertheless, Mark Hughes, the Rovers manager, needs a central defender almost as badly as a striker, hence the determination to approach the north London club again. The club also hopes to secure the services of goalkeeper Shay Given from Newcastle United, despite Newcastle demanding a sum far closer to its £10m asking price. The second of two bids so far has valued him at around £5m, though no developments seem likely before the clubs meet in the league tomorrow night.

Hughes has indicated that he is confident he has owner Sheikh Mansour al-Nahyan's backing to deal with Robinho in any way he sees fit, should yesterday's meeting between the two fail to draw a line under the player's actions in sneaking out of the club's training camp in Tenerife last week. "I will deal with Robinho in such a way that I absolutely would not expect this to happen again," Hughes said. "I feel confident that, if there was a longer problem with any player, even Robinho, I would have the go-ahead from Sheikh Mansour to deal with it in whatever way I saw fit."

Hughes has a difficult line to walk with Robinho, attempting to keep him onside amid the probable disappointment of not bringing in any marquee names. But the City manager said he did not intend to issue platitudes to the Brazilian.

"People talk about assurances to Robinho, but any reassurances would just be repetition. He knows how I feel," Hughes said. "I have always felt that the top players are easier to control because they have a professional mentality and a winning mentality and that is why they are at the top. Now it seems a bit bizarre to be talking like this considering what has happened with Robinho, but it will be addressed, mainly because I expect certain standards from my best guys. I have no problem with good footballers. The ones that are a problem are those that have a higher opinion of their ability than is apparent and a higher opinion of their worth to the team."

After driving into the club's training complex yesterday morning, Robinho was greeted warmly by team-mate Shaun Wright-Phillips, as well as new recruits Wayne Bridge and Craig Bellamy. The £33m forward arrived on a private plane from Rio de Janeiro with his wife and son.

City are unaware of any interest from Arsenal for defender Micah Richards, despite suggestions of a £7m offer. Richards said yesterday: "I'm happy at Manchester City and believe that the club is going in the right direction."

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