By Liam Twomey
Whether or not they can muster a finishing charge to match last season’s astonishing comeback in the Premier League title race, this summer promises to be one of great change at Manchester City.
Roberto Mancini’s long-term future at the club remains uncertain, while a host of players have also been linked with the exit door as City look to re-model and strengthen their squad without falling foul of Uefa’s Financial Fair Play restrictions.
Two of the names most persistently touted for summer departures are Carlos Tevez and Edin Dzeko; two strikers who have provided the Premier League champions with good service at important times in recent years, without finding themselves particularly cherished in the hearts of City fans.
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With Tevez, the coolness is easy to understand. Many in the blue half of Manchester will never fully forgive or forget the public insubordination he showed towards Mancini during a crucial Champions League clash with Bayern Munich in November 2011, or the subsequent six months he spent working on his golf handicap in Argentina.
He also happens to be one of the highest-paid players at City, with a basic wage reported to be £198,000-a-week. Consequently, his continuing presence at the club might make lucrative summer swoops for Napoli superstar Edinson Cavani or Atletico Madrid sensation Falcao – two players widely considered to be upgrades on City’s current attacking options – practically impossible.
This is certainly the thinking of the City hierarchy, who have been looking to offload Tevez for over a year, but the list of European suitors has grown shorter.
Milan are looking towards younger talent and have made their marquee signing in the form of Mario Balotelli, Barcelona have no need for another big-name goalscorer while Lionel Messi continues his phenomenal form and Real Madrid are more likely to be in for Cavani or Falcao themselves.
Inter could well rekindle their interest, but a return to South America appears the likeliest option. Tevez has often spoken of his desire to return to his beloved Boca Juniors, while several clubs in the resurgent Brazilian league might be able to put a financial package together which tempts City.
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His relentless work rate and professionalism on the field ensured his popularity at West Ham and Manchester United as well as City, while his deceptive strength, clever movement and ability to conjure a goal from nothing continue to make him a nightmare for defenders.
He is also a winner. It is no coincidence that his return from exile signalled City’s remarkable charge to the Premier League title last term, and he has already notched seven goals and seven assists in spite of their struggles this term. Whoever replaces him will have considerable shoes to fill.
As will the man who comes in for Dzeko, the other City striker seemingly destined to leave Manchester at the end of the season.
The big Bosnian endured a slow start to his Premier League career on arriving from Wolfsburg for £25m in January 2011. Despite his tall frame, he initially found the physicality and speed of English football a difficult challenge. But once he adapted, he proved a formidable asset.
Dzeko netted 19 times in all competitions for City last term, including a sensational four-goal haul against Tottenham at White Hart Lane and ‘the goal before the goal’ against QPR on the final day of the season which secured the club’s first league title since 1968.
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That he did so without the confidence of his manager is even more impressive. Mancini has always favoured the occasional brilliance of Balotelli or the industry of Tevez alongside the reliably brilliant Sergio Aguero, invariably relegating Dzeko to the role of impact substitute.
It is one he has taken to with relish, though. Dzeko has scored four goals from 12 cameo appearances this season – only Reading saviour Adam Le Fondre has more (six) – and three of them have been match-winners. Cometh the hour, cometh the big man.
But Dzeko is far from happy to be a member of the supporting cast, and the suggestion is he is ready to move on in search of regular football in the summer.
Borussia Dortmund are interested in taking him if Robert Lewandowski completes a widely-touted move to rivals Bayern Munich, though general manager Hans-Joachim Watzke insists the City man would have to take a significant pay cut in order to make the deal happen.
As with Tevez, City feel they can attract superior strikers to Dzeko if they can get the Bosnian off their books, but they may not realise what they are letting go – an intelligent frontman who works well with a strike partner or leading the line, and who can score goals against top opposition.
Tevez and Dzeko are attacking talents who would enrich most sides in the Premier League and many in Europe. Since they look like being the next victims of City’s relentlessly ambitious building plans, however, time for their admirers to enjoy them on these shores may be running out.
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