Manchester City were optimistic last night that they had done enough in their first day of discussions in Milan to progress to direct talks with Kaka over their proposed £91m offer for him – an outcome of which executive chairman Garry Cook was not certain when he headed out yesterday.
With Mark Hughes standing by at the club's warm-weather training camp for the telephone call which could see him leaving to take his own direct role in the bid, Cook and Sheikh Mansour al-Nahyan's representative Simon Pearce set about outlining their club's plans in the hope of convincing the player's father and chief adviser Bosco Leite that on-field success will be rapid.
Though City completed the £14m deal to bring Craig Bellamy to Eastlands yesterday, and the £18m deal for Hamburg's Nigel de Jong is as good as done too, it has become clear that a figure of more than £30m may be required to bring in Roque Santa Cruz from Blackburn Rovers.
Lines of communication between the two clubs have remained open since City's £16m bid was rejected two weeks ago but the message Cook and his managing director Paul Aldridge have received is that Rovers do not believe they can find a replacement for Santa Cruz and that, with relegation expected to remain a threat until next spring, he is not for sale.
It would seem that only a knock-out bid way beyond the parameters expected for a player like Santa Cruz would seem capable of dislodging Rovers, with Sam Allardyce's opinion on the subject apparently hardening as he has got to know and like the Paraguayan. West Ham's decision to release Bellamy to City was, in part, borne of the indignation he expressed when he walked out of training last Friday but Santa Cruz does not appear to be in the same state of mind about Rovers' desire to hold on to him for four months more. At least one other Premier League club are understood to have inquired after Santa Cruz this month but his own club's failure to sign El Hadji Diouf as a replacement has been a factor in Rovers' stance.
Though the "cost" of relegation is put at around £30m by the Ewood Park hierarchy, Allardyce declared it to be £40m while in the process of warning City off.
"The bottom line is, we don't want to sell Roque Santa Cruz," Allardyce said yesterday. "In fact we won't be selling Roque Santa Cruz, that's a certainty. The money is no good to me at this stage of the season. Roque Santa Cruz is more valuable to me and more valuable to Blackburn Rovers than the money, whoever might offer. There's £40m at stake [to stay] in the Premier League per year and I don't think anyone is going to offer us £40m for Roque Santa Cruz. The value of Roque as a player for us is far greater than what anyone could give us in terms of money."
Asked if he would be happy to take £40m for the player, Allardyce added: "I think I would, yes. I think I'd have to. I don't think the board would take too kindly to me saying 'No, I'm still not taking that'."
Hamburg have confirmed that they and City have agreed terms for De Jong. "We have had contact with Manchester City and have agreed to release the player if he can strike a deal with [them]," a club spokesman said. "Now it is up to the player and his agent to agree on a contract with that team."