The inflated financial demands that Manchester City have faced in their pursuit of players in this transfer window have forced them to walk away from three deals, with hopes of signing the Valencia duo David Villa and David Silva dashed, along with the pursuit of Lassana Diarra, who left Portsmouth for Real Madrid for £20m.
Garry Cook, the City executive chairman, said that the sums being asked for by clubs and agents during negotiations for "three players" were "ludicrous." He is believed to have been talking about Villa and Silva, for whom Valencia were demanding a combined price of €135m (£128m), and Diarra, whose representatives were seeking a £6m cut for themselves as part of any deal.
"We chose not to engage in those conversations and [manager] Mark [Hughes] fully understands that," Cook said. "We're all together on this strategy [and] we're not anybody's fool. The speculation that we are out there throwing money around is simply not true – unless there is a good business case over a period of time that can show a return."
City's transfer window "project" has also been affected by at least one Premier League club telling them to leave well alone. After making informal inquiries to the Everton chairman, Bill Kenwright, about the availability of Joleon Lescott and Mikel Arteta, City were informed that Kenwright's club were regaining stability after their rocky start to the season and did not need City around. No bids have been forthcoming, with City insisting that they will only do business with those who are willing to sell.
The club's pursuit of 27-year-old Villa raises the prospect of Hughes returning for him again in the summer. Villa certainly fits the clean-cut image which seems to be a consideration for City in their pursuit of marquee names, though serious doubts remain as to whether he would actually leave Spain. A very Spanish Spaniard, Villa seems more disposed to joining Barcelona or Real Madrid. Silva, 23, an attacking midfielder capable of playing on either side of the pitch, may be a more promising prospect.
Reports in the Italian press yesterday bore out, albeit from a Milan perspective, City's detailed account of how, at the downtown offices of the Milan law firm Izzi-Tognazzi on Monday night, the Premier League club wanted to focus on potential intellectual property rights before they would move on to talk about Kaka's personal terms. Cook has described how, as his six-strong delegation struggled over seven hours to persuade the player's father and principal agent, Bosco Leite, to let them examine current image rights documents as part of the due diligence process, the English group broke off from the Italians to discuss their negotiating stance.
This evidently baffled the Italians, who mocked City's "stop-start" approach in the papers. City were astonished by the small-scale way in which Kaka's image rights were being marketed – a "cottage industry" is the way one City insider has described deals such as a €150,000 (£138,000) TV fee which Leite believed to be substantial. But the Italians evidently considered talk of such issues to be ridiculous.
"The truth is that in six hours of talks with Manchester City they only asked questions and didn't make an offer for Kaka. How on earth did they think they were going to buy him?" one Milan insider told La Gazzetta dello Sport. "It's one thing buying a property or a company, but completely another when you are trying to charm one of the best players in the world."
The events of this week reveal what a deep-set cultural divide City face in their attempts to pull off future big-name transfers, using a business model based on Cook's experiences in selling the image rights of the basketball player Michael Jordan for Nike. One of the most pressing considerations for the club now, after the events of the past week, is whether they can overcome that difference without football agents present to help them. Agents involved during three months' of work on the Kaka deal were present at the club's initial meeting with Milan last week, but the same individuals appear to have found out through a third party on Monday that further talks were taking place.
Selling image rights ideas to a footballer's father is certainly a tall order, though there is now some patching up to do for Cook if he wants to involve the same middlemen he has used in the past. Cook will not discuss that issue, though City argue that the reasons for the collapse of talks are more elementary and way beyond the power of agents: Leite's exorbitant financial demands and the Milan fans' revolt over the proposed sale of Kaka.
Seven down: The City targets who proved to be out of reach
Most high-profile target. Deal collapsed earlier this week.
Diarra City put off by £6m agent fee. Moved to Real Madrid instead.
Combined price of £128m for him and Villa cooled City's interest.
Inquiries but no bid forthcoming after being warned off by Everton.
Juventus goalkeeper remains off limits, even come the summer.
Same as with Arteta – Everton did not want to do business.
City may return for the Valencia striker, but doubtful whether he would leave Spain.