MANCHESTER // Mark Hughes, the Manchester City manager, has made it clear Abu Dhabi's new owners will not pay inflated prices for players when the transfer window reopens in January. Hughes flew to the capital last week for a meeting with Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, owner of the Abu Dhabi United Group which recently took over at the club, and chairman Khaldoon al Mubarak to discuss future squad strengthening plans.
The City manager returned on Thursday with his own position reinforced, despite a poor run of results that has seen City register just one win in seven Premier League matches. Hughes also knows he can start planning to improve his squad, with Roque Santa Cruz, Wayne Bridge and Lassana Diarra rumoured by the English press to be on his shopping list, putting Blackburn, Chelsea and cash-strapped Portsmouth on red alert.
But while the Welshman has been assured cash will be made available, he does not feel that means City will be prepared to pay exorbitant fees for any potential new arrivals. "There is a danger that people look at us, see a club that can be strong in the market and try to charge top dollar," he reflected. "But Sheikh Mansour and chairman Khaldoon are very astute businessmen. They have business projects all over the world that are managed correctly. The investments they make are done with cool business heads. That will apply to any acquisitions we want to make at Manchester City."
Hughes intends to take a considered look at his squad before adding to it, knowing January is a difficult month to prise top talent away from their clubs. "We need a balance in the squad, so we will pursue players we feel meet that target," he said. "That applies in all positions. It is a process I have been through many times before. Where there is an imbalance, we will try to address." Meanwhile, Portsmouth boss Tony Adams has told the club's owner Alexandre Gaydamak he will quit as manager if the club sell striker England Jermain Defoe - or any of the other players he wants to keep - in the January transfer window.
"Big offers? I can't wait, because the owner has been very supportive and although I've not made an issue of it I've told him that everyone stays who I want to stay or I don't do the job." * With agencies