By Wayne Veysey | Chief Correspondent
Manchester City’s audacious bid to lure Cristiano Ronaldo from Real Madrid demonstrates the ambition of the Abu Dhabi owners to confirm the club’s emergence as a permanent part of football’s elite.
But the move for the Real Madrid icon is just one element of what is expected to be a significant overhaul of the playing squad this summer.
|CITY MOVE FOR RON?
||Manchester City are 6/1 with Sportingbet to sign Cristiano Ronaldo in the summer transfer window
Edinson Cavani is the No.1 striker target this summer as the club prepare to offload four senior front men and free up £600,000-a-week, or £31million per annum, from the wage bill.
Roberto Mancini has placed the prolific Uruguayan at the top of his shopping list once again in a bid to lure the 25-year-old from Serie A, after trying and failing to land him in the two previous summers.
Sources have told Goal.com that there were “conversations” between representatives of Cavani and City last week, when the player was also touted to Chelsea.
Although Cavani is Mancini’s favoured target, Robin van Persie, who is preparing for showdown contract talks with Arsenal at the end of the season, is strongly under consideration, as is the prolific Real Madrid front man Gonzalo Higuain.
City have also been linked with Atletico Madrid’s Radamel Falcao but the 26-year-old Colombian is not believed to be a serious target at this point.
City officials have been alarmed at the lack of penetration from the wide positions since the turn of the year, and the club have prioritised a wide attacker who can create as well as score goals.
Ronaldo is the name being whispered in the corridors of power but if the Abu Dhabi senior hierarchy are unable to pull off what would be the most staggering transfer of the summer, attention will be switched to other targets.
Cavani’s team-mate Ezequiel Lavezzi is being closely monitored by the club, who have been told that the Argentine has little appetite to extend his five-year stay in Naples after his girlfriend was mugged last November. The winger’s contract runs until 2015 but it is believed to include a £25m buy-out clause.
City are one of half-a-dozen leading Premier League clubs keeping an eye on Eden Hazard, the brilliant young Belgian, who came close to joining Tottenham in January following a series of meetings between chairman Daniel Levy and the Ligue 1 club.
A more intriguing target is another Real Madrid A-lister, the left-footed winger Angel Di Maria. City have been made aware that the 24-year-old Argentine is currently locked in a contract dispute with the Spanish giants after he rejected a pay upgrade from the club. He has also slipped down the pecking order at the Bernabeu this season.
City have also mandated the recruitment of a box-to-box midfielder to replace Nigel De Jong, who is expected to leave the club in the summer.
|MAN CITY'S TOP EARNERS
|HART, SANTA CRUZ, BRIDGE, CLICHY
City scouts have watched the 23-year-old a number of times this year and, although his contract has a £34m buy-out clause, Bilbao are understood to be open to an offer in the region of £25m.
City’s plan is to break even in the transfer market this summer while, at the same time, substantially trimming the wage bill.
Some of the club’s biggest earners will be put up for sale as the title challengers attempt to utilise their salary budget more effectively.
The club will listen to offers for Carlos Tevez, who earns £198,000-a-week, Edin Dzeko, who gets £130,000-a-week, and De Jong, who is on £85,000-a-week. On-loan trio Emmanuel Adebayor (£170,000-a-week), Wayne Bridge and Roque Santa Cruz (who both earn £90,000-a-week) can also leave.
In total, City can save around £800,000-a-week from off-loading the sextet, equivalent to nearly a quarter of the Premier League record £174m salary bill revealed in the club’s 2010-11 financial accounts.
Furthermore, the Eastlands’ futures of Mario Balotelli and Gareth Barry are not guaranteed beyond the end of the season, although there is no indication at this stage that either player is for sale.
Of the available strikers, City value Tevez at £25m, Dzeko at £20m and Adebayor at £10m, while they hope to recoup £12m from selling De Jong, who is being monitored by Inter Milan and Juventus.
Santa Cruz and Bridge are two who benefitted from over-the-top salaries in the first year of the Abu Dhabi regime and are contracted to the club until 2013. Neither are expected to wear a City shirt again and will be sold at knock-down prices if a buyer can be found.
Follow Wayne Veysey on