By Wayne Veysey | Chief Correspondent
Roberto Mancini will have his long-term Manchester City future assessed by the club only when the final ball of the season has been kicked, Goal.com can reveal.
Mancini indicated to City chiefs before Christmas that he was willing to open talks over an extension to his contract - but the Italian has been told that negotiations will not begin until the summer.
The City manager, who signed a three-and-a-half year deal when he succeeded Mark Hughes in December 2009, is out of contract in June 2013.
If City fail to overturn a 1-0 deficit in the second leg of their Europa League last-16 clash against Sporting Lisbon on Thursday night, it will leave the Premier League as the club’s only remaining trophy target, and Mancini’s future could then hinge on clinching the title.
Sources have indicated to Goal.com that the club’s Abu Dhabi owners will make a firm decision on Mancini’s situation when they assess the entire campaign, which promised so much when City were setting the pace at the top of the Premier League and comfortably swatting aside all their opponents.
Senior officials passed up the opportunity to extend Mancini’s deal, which is worth £3.5 million-a-year before bonuses, when he steered the club to last May’s FA Cup triumph, their first trophy in 35 years.
As an accounting measure, City’s policy is to sign off the contracts of players and coaching staff at the end of the season. Adam Johnson and Joe Hart both penned new deals in the current campaign, in January and November respectively, but neither were exceptions to the club’s rule. Johnson had verbally agreed his contract last summer, while Hart’s fresh agreement was simply a pay rise rather than an extended deal.
As revealed by Goal.com in recent weeks, the club have offered David Silva and Vincent Kompany contract extensions but they will not be formally completed before mid-May. Mancini has not received similar encouragement in his bid to sign an extended deal at Eastlands.
Mancini is settled in England and ready to commit himself to the club by penning a new deal but, if the team collapses in the final two months of the campaign, his job is expected to come under threat.
It is understood that City have taken a calculated gamble by delaying talks with Mancini to protect themselves from having to pay a huge compensation package were he to be dismissed. Mancini's reputation remains strong in his homeland, where a number of high profile managerial jobs are expected to be available in the summer, including at his former club Inter and Roma.
The name of Jose Mourinho is most frequently mentioned in the City corridors of power but the feeling in Manchester is that the Portuguese will sign a new Real Madrid contract imminently.
At this moment, there is no indication that City have begun to sound out alternative managerial candidates.
With the need to have something tangible to show for the season, Goal.com understands that Mancini will play his strongest available team against Sporting Lisbon, with Joleon Lescott expected to start if he passes a late fitness test.