Mark Hughes last night claimed nobody could have done as good a job at Manchester City as he did during his 18 months in charge. Hughes is back in management for the first time since being sacked by City last December after being unveiled as the new Fulham manager yesterday.
The 46-year-old insisted he was not bitter about his demise but had no doubt he would have achieved the target set by the Manchester club's new owners had he been given the chance. Hughes' reign spanned the transition between the ownership of Thaksin Shinawatra and Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, his transfer budget rocketing overnight from next to nothing to being virtually without limit. He lost his job just before Christmas following a run of two wins in 11 games, although the club were still well placed to break into the Premier League top four.
Speaking at his official unveiling as Fulham manager, Hughes said: "I was disappointed because I felt I was doing a good job, given the circumstances that I found at the club and all the changes that we had to accommodate in my tenure there. I think no-one else could have done as good a job as I did, given the circumstances. "I felt we were fully on track with the expectations of the owners. Unfortunately, maybe their mindset changed, and I wasn't part of their plans."
Asked if he would be prepared to shake City chief executive Garry Cook or owner Sheikh Mansour's hand when the clubs meet this season, he said: "It wasn't about personality, from my point of view. "I had an opportunity and I felt I was fulfilling the role that I was asked. In the end, that opportunity was taken away from me and there was frustration because of that. "But I don't think the emotion of being bitter or frustrated by that was a good emotion. I wouldn't be myself if I allowed that emotion to be within me. I've moved on, City have moved on, and I'm looking forward to a great season at Fulham Football Club."
He added: "Sometimes relationships break down and that can have an effect on your position at the football club. I've come here, I feel very comfortable with the people I'm working with. "Maybe one of the key elements to it is that I'm actually their man. "Maybe that was one of the big things that went against me at City. "I have no embarrassment in terms of the job that I did at City. If you ask people there - people who are still there - they would agree with that situation. I would back my performance in terms of what I achieved there against anybody's ability to get the same amount out of those players."
Meanwhile, Chelsea are close to making their second signing of the summer after reportedly agreeing a £17 million (Dh98.5m) deal for Ramires, Benfica's Brazil midfielder. The Premier League champions expect to tie up a deal for the 23-year-old before the end of the week. Ramires, who is due to undergo a medical at Chelsea in the coming days, would be the second addition to Carlo Ancelotti's squad following the arrival of Yossi Benayoun from Liverpool..
Bolton's manager Owen Coyle is keen to re-sign Ivan Klasnic, this time on a permanent basis, after the striker's contract was cancelled with Nantes, the French club. The Croatian spent last season on loan and impressed Coyle in the five months of the season he was in charge at the Reebok Stadium. Coyle's limited budget meant he felt there was only an outside chance of recruiting the 30-year-old, but now he is a free agent the possibility of a return has increased.
West Ham have signed Tal Ben Haim, the Portsmouth defender, on loan until January. * PA