x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

No room at Man City for Ibrahimovic

Manchester City have turned down a chance to sign the Barcelona forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic following the arrival of Mario Balotelli from Inter.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic, top, did not want to join Manchester City, according to a source at the club.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, top, did not want to join Manchester City, according to a source at the club.

Manchester City have turned down a chance to sign Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the Barcelona forward, because they have enough forwards following Mario Balotelli's arrival from Inter Milan, according to a source with the club. Balotelli, who was purchased on Friday, became the eighth striker on City's overcrowded books.

According to the source, who declined to comment on the record, Robinho, the Brazilian striker, was part of the proposed deal with Barca that would have seen Ibrahimovic join City without a transfer fee. Instead, the source said, City apparently are willing to take a £15 million (Dh87m) loss on Robinho by selling him to Fenerbahce, the Turkish club. Ibrahimovic was initially offered to City, the source said, and they and Barcelona had discussions involving an increase in his ?12m (Dh56m) after-tax salary.

But Ibrahimovic told his agent he did not want to join the Premier League club, the source said, and the club decided they did not have room for him following Friday's purchase of Balotelli. Ibrahimovic, who last year went from Inter to Barcelona in a deal worth ?66m, would prefer to join AC Milan, Inter's bitter rivals, according to the source. He thrived in Serie A before a disappointing debut season in Spain.

Milan have offered to take the 28-year-old - who has been told that he can find a new club by Pep Guardiola, the Barca coach - on loan. The stumbling block may be Swede's salary - one the highest in world football - and the Spanish club may end up paying part of his wages. Meanwhile, Robinho, who spent the second half of last season on loan to Santos, his former club in Brazil, asked to leave City in a meeting with Roberto Mancini on Thursday, the source said. The manager agreed there was no space for him and asked agents to accelerate attempts to find the player an exit route.

Robinho cost City a then-British record transfer fee of £32.5m when he was signed from Real Madrid, but the offer from Fenerbahce is £19m, according to the source, representing a significant loss. There could be another, less lucrative bid for the forward, but with Barcelona out of the equation Robinho is apparently prepared to move to Turkey, home of many great Brazilians down the years such as Roberto Carlos and Alex. The Istanbul club have promised Robinho an increase on his £4m after-tax salary, according to the source.

Robinho's departure would help Mancini slim down a squad that currently has too many overseas players to meet revised Premier League rules of a 25-man squad with eight "homegrown" players. Balotelli, who is understood to have cost an initial £24m, is exempt from the new regulations at present as the forward is under the age of 21. City are also close to completing the transfer of James Milner, the Aston Villa midfielder, who will qualify as homegrown.

The club is, however, having difficult moving on other surplus players. Stephen Ireland, who is unhappy with his situation at City, is reported to have requested a £2m pay off before joining Villa as part of the Milner deal. Jo, the Brazilian who cost around £19m from CSKA Moscow in 2008, has so far been priced out of a transfer to Spain. Craig Bellamy, who Mancini has revealed is not in the 25-man squad, is wanted by top-division suitors including Tottenham Hotspur, Fulham and Scottish side Celtic, but the Welshman has asked to be allowed to join hometown club Cardiff City on loan. However, his wages of £80,000 a week could be a falling point.

Mancini has said Milner will be the last arrival at the club this summer, which would end City's interest in Maicon, the Inter Milan right-back. The Brazil international missed out on his a transfer to Real Madrid when his agent raised salary demands from an agreed ?5m a year to ?7m. Real have signed Chelsea's Ricardo Carvalho instead and Maicon was seen having a heated argument with his agent at the Milan Hilton.