Belfast Telegraph

Title-chasing Manchester City vow to spend again

By Ian Herbert

Manchester City's owners are convinced Roberto Mancini can win them the Premier League title in his first full season and are ready to back their belief in him by returning to the transfer market next month.

Mancini has insisted that a top-four finish — the target he was set by the City board in August — is the limit of the club's ambition for this campaign.

And though the board appreciate that the unpredictability of the season, manifest in Monday's 2-1 home defeat to Everton, could deliver any outcome, there is a genuine belief that the first title in 42 years could be theirs.

The board's conviction that Mancini is the man to lead them is such that he has not been set a 70-point target, as his predecessor Mark Hughes was, and must instead achieve only a top-four finish.

With that goal in sight, the club will attempt to sign Edin Dzeko, Wolfsburg's prolific striker, in January, to reinforce a front line in which Carlos Tevez has been asked to shoulder too much responsibility.

City believe that the move for Dzeko will not be straightforward — talks broke down in the summer because the German club's £45m valuation was £15m higher than City's — but the strong first half to the season strengthens their appeal to the Bosnia international.

There will not be a vast outlay in January, with only minor tweaks considered necessary at a club which has concluded that Craig Bellamy will not return when his season-long loan spell at Cardiff City is over.

But the signing of Dzeko is a significant aim, considering the unpredictability of both Tevez and Mario Balotelli.

At 24, he falls within the younger age range of players that City feel they can work with as they seek Champions League qualification. The tournament's revenues are critical to their attempts to lessen their £133m losses and move within the level of losses permissible under Uefa Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations from 2013.

Though there is still some disquiet about the light in which Hughes' departure from Eastlands cast the club — there is a feeling at the highest level of the club that City were vilified for Hughes' sacking simply because news of Mancini's appointment leaked out at the Italian end — Mancini's approach to the job has delighted the board as much as the team's position.

Their belief in him was evident in the decision to sign Balotelli from Internazionale this summer, a move Mancini was intent on and which he was determined to drive through.

Balotelli yesterday underwent an examination of his left knee, which he injured against Everton.

As Mancini had suspected, there is no cause for concern and he will be fit to play at Newcastle on Boxing Day, but his acceptance speech on collection of Tuttosport's Golden Boy trophy reveals what a man-management task Mancini has on his hands.

The 20-year-old claimed he is the best player under the age of 21 and that he did not even know who fellow contender Jack Wilshere was.

Balotelli, who finished ahead of the Arsenal midfielder, said: “I am delighted to receive this award. Who should have won this award but me? Two years ago I finished sixth and a year ago fourth. It was finally my turn.

“I don't know who Wilshere is but the next time I play against Arsenal I will keep a close eye on him.

“Perhaps I can show him the Golden Boy trophy and remind him that I won it!” Balotelli said he aspired to win the Balon d'Or.

“My aim is that this prize will, in the near future, transform itself into the Balon d'Or,” he said.

“To have won this award is a good omen to achieve that. All I ask for is two things: to win the Premier League and to clinch the Europa League.”

Meanwhile, Joe Hart has admitted Manchester City missed a major opportunity to stamp their mark on the Barclays Premier League on Monday night.

Although they would have played two more matches than

Manchester United, victory over Everton would have seen the Blues top on Christmas Day for the first time since 1929.

“It is a big opportunity missed because we could have been sat at the top of the table now,” Hart said. “But we need to dust ourselves down and pick ourselves up because we are all obviously gutted to have lost this game.”

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