Blackburn Rovers will seek an understanding with Roque Santa Cruz about his suggestions yesterday that the idea of signing for Manchester City appealed to him. But they may still be forced to accept his departure, with Mark Hughes persisting in the view that the Paraguayan is the striker he most wants to buy.
Hughes's £15m bid for a player he signed for £7.5m from Bayern Munich was rejected during the summer by Rovers, with whom the player subsequently signed a new four-year deal. The appeal of such a move appears to be mutual, with Santa Cruz, who was prevented by a hamstring injury from joining the Paraguayan team last week, now telling the Primero de Marzo radio station in his own country that he has been flattered by City's continued interest. "Manchester City is a team that has a very important financial support that is getting prepared for winning the title," he said. "I am very happy at Blackburn but I like the idea of playing for a team that will be fighting for important objectives.
"I will keep on doing what I do at Blackburn but if the coach of Manchester City is interested in me, I would like to join Robinho in that team. He is a wonderful player and I would like to play next to him."
Rovers were surprised to learn of the comments. The club was of the view that nothing had occurred to lead them to believe he is unhappy. But Rovers will know that there is little they can do if City come with a monumental bid – as they seem almost certain to do following the injection of Arab cash.
Blackburn have shown as much as ambition as City and on more limited budgets since the death of Jack Walker eight years ago but the relationship Hughes forged with Santa Cruz before the Welshman left Rovers for City in the summer, could also prove telling in his attempts to hire him.
Blackburn have started well under Paul Ince, though their heavy defeat at home to Arsenal and annihilation by Manchester United two weeks ago at Ewood suggest that they are less likely to be pushing for a Uefa Cup place. This may also influence Santa Cruz who, at 27, may feel the opportunities to play Champions League football will not be his for much longer. He has already underlined his value to Ince, scoring in Rovers' wins at Goodison and St James' Park.
* The FA has warned the Newcastle manager Joe Kinnear that he could face disciplinary action if he swears in public in future. Kinnear gave an expletive-packed press briefing on 2 October. The FA said yesterday: "Newcastle United manager Joe Kinnear has been reminded of his responsibilities by the FA in relation to comments made at a press briefing on 2 October. The FA has received an apology from Kinnear for any offence his comments may have caused."