By Duncan Castles
Manchester City's prolonged pursuit of Eliaquim Mangala is poised to come to a successful conclusion after the France international decided to sign for the Premier League champions.
City have agreed a €40 million deal with Porto, while the 23-year-old is scheduled to join pre-season training following a post-World Cup holiday.
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Delaying until the summer window opened up the possibility of other interested parties convincing Mangala to move elsewhere. Targeted by Jose Mourinho since before the manager's return to Chelsea, Mangala publicly expressed his preference for the west London club in May and refused to sign terms with any of his suitors until the end of France's World Cup campaign.
Aware that they might lose Mangala to a direct rival, City are understood to have set a deadline of Sunday for him to accept their approach. As an insurance policy, an outline deal had been put in place with Roma for Morocco international Mehdi Benatia.
The demand for physically robust defenders who are also capable ball players has seen centre-back become one of the hardest positions for Champions League clubs to fill, leading Paris Saint-Germain to spend €50m acquiring David Luiz from Chelsea at the beginning of this summer. While widely admired, Mangala does not come without an element of risk.
Brought from Standard Liege for €7.5m in 2011, Mangala played less than a 100 first-team games over his three seasons at Porto and has yet to establish himself as a starter for his national team. His form deteriorated during a difficult campaign in which the Portuguese title was ceded to Benfica.
Arguably the most successful transfer-market operators in European football, Porto have entered discussions to bring Portugal centre back Bruno Alves back to the club. Fenerbahce are asking for a fee of €6m for the 32-year-old, who would be expected to make a large salary sacrifice to complete the deal.