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The Premier League champions are pressing ahead with plans to strengthen their squad ahead of next season's title defence, with several players also set to leave

SPECIAL REPORT
By Harry Sherlock

The dust has barely settled on Manchester City's ticker-tape title parade, but the club are pressing ahead with a major recruitment drive ahead of the defence of their Premier League title.

Manuel Pellegrini, who won his first major trophy after City's 2-0 win over West Ham, is set to meet the club's owners for talks in Abu Dhabi ahead of a summer of frantic transfer activity.

The discussion in the Persian Gulf - where City have already landed - will centre on transfer targets, with Pellegrini set to be backed to the hilt by Sheikh Mansour in the upcoming transfer window.

Speaking to the press after the victory over Sam Allardyce's side, Pellegrini claimed the club would immediately look to build on their success, rather than sit back and bask in its glory.

"Big teams cannot be satisfied with just one title," he said. "It is very important to celebrate today and tomorrow, and start on Tuesday working for next season. Then we will start thinking where we can improve."

One such area is midfield, with Porto star Fernando a priority target for the Chilean. City tabled a joint bid for Fernando and his team-mate Eliaquim Mangala in January, though the deal could not be completed before the transfer deadline.



However, Pellegrini remains keen to land Fernando and talks with the Portuguese club are progressing well, with the groundwork for the deal laid earlier in the year.

Everton have also been credited with an interest in the 26-year-old, but City believe they have a head start on the Merseyside club given their good relationship with Porto.

Bacary Sagna has also been prioritised and Goal understands the Arsenal right-back will hold talks with the Premier League champions next week over a summer transfer.

The Frenchman has informed the Gunners of his desire to leave, even declaring to Arsene Wenger that Saturday's FA Cup final will be his last match for the club, and City are prepared to match his £100,000-a-week wage demands in order to land their man.

Sagna could join such luminaries as Emmanuel Adebayor, Samir Nasri, Gael Clichy and Kolo Toure should he swap north London for Manchester, a move that will infuriate many of the Emirates faithful.

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However, after falling foul of Uefa's Financial Fair Play rules, City will look to balance the books by allowing a number of players to leave this summer. Scott Sinclair, signed from Swansea in 2012, spent the season on loan at West Brom and will be allowed to go for as little as £3 million after failing to impress Pellegrini.

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So too will Jack Rodwell, if a buyer can be found, after the ex-Everton midfielder made just one Premier League start this season, while Gareth Barry is likely to be the subject of a bid from Roberto Martinez's side after impressing during a short-term stay at Goodison Park.

City, however, are keen to ensure Micah Richards stays at the Etihad Stadium, despite the club's interest in Sagna. Richards' contract expires in 12 months and the club want to retain the 25-year-old for the duration of his contract, in order to avoid violating the homegrown player rules put in place by both the Premier League and Uefa.

Richards has publicly admitted that he will "have to do what is best" for his career this summer, and Pellegrini will attempt to convince him to stay put for at least another season, while the same can be said of Costel Pantilimon.

The Romanian goalkeeper has fallen behind Joe Hart in the goalkeeping pecking order, despite an extended run of games earlier in the season, but City will offer the stopper an improved deal if he is happy to continue competing with the England international.

Pantilimon currently earns around £30,000 a week and has been linked with a move abroad, but talks over his future are expected to take place before the transfer window opens.

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