Roberto Mancini leads the race for the €37m-rated Belgian ahead of Manchester United and Tottenham, with the Etihad Stadium outfit stepping up their pursuit in recent weeksEXCLUSIVE
By Greg Stobart | UK Correspondent
Manchester City are in pole position to sign £37 million-rated Lille star Eden Hazard after stepping up their pursuit of the Belgian attacker in the last month.
The Premier League leaders have moved ahead of Manchester United and Tottenham in the race for one of the hottest prospects in Europe and are described as “very confident” of landing Hazard in the summer.
City executive Patrick Vieira has emerged as a key figure in the club’s pursuit of Hazard, watching the 21-year-old at least twice in person on scouting missions, including Lille’s 2-1 win over Paris Saint-Germain on Sunday night where he was joined by United's European scout Martin Ferguson.
Both Sir Alex Ferguson and Roberto Mancini have watched Hazard in action over the last two months but City are believed to be favourites to land the player as they prepare to offer wages in excess of £100,000-a-week (€125,000) and a regular starting spot.
It was Hazard’s desire to feature regularly that originally made Tottenham favourites for his signatures and a move to north London remains a possibility if Harry Redknapp’s side can qualify for the Champions League.
D.O.B: Jan 7, 1991
City, however, have stepped up their push for Hazard in the last three weeks - one of his representatives was at the 2-0 win at Wolves last month - and see him as an ideal player to add to the squad as he can play across the pitch in Mancini’s preferred 4-2-3-1 system.
Hazard, who was watched by Mancini and David Platt against Valenciennes in March, reiterated his desire to move to the Premier League after his latest show-stealing display on Sunday.
"I want to play in England," he said. "My objective is to go to the Premier League, because I have had my time in France. For now I am concentrating on finishing the season with Lille to the best of my ability and then going to England."
City's Abu Dhabi owners are prepared to break the bank for Hazard after Mancini claimed last week the Etihad Stadium is the "perfect destination" for a player the club have tracked for the last two seasons.
Asked about his interest in Hazard, Mancini said: "Yes, I like him a lot. He is a good player, he is young and he would do very good things in our team.
"Given his technical qualities, City would be the perfect destination for him. I know him well, I’ve been watching him a long time. He is a player that many teams want."
In an interview with a French radio station last week, Ferguson echoed Mancini’s praise of the youngster and admitted Hazard was the main focus of his attention when he watched Lille play against Lyon in March.
"He is a very good player who has many qualities," Ferguson said. "He is particularly fast over the first 10 yards."
But United feel they will lose out to their neighbours and are simultaneously pursuing cheaper alternatives including Borussia Dortmund start Shinji Kagawa and Hoffenheim midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson, who is currently in fine form on loan at Swansea.
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