LONDON: Manchester City’s players have staged their open-top bus parade through the streets and their fans turned out in tens of thousands to cheer them for proving that this is, without doubt, the capital of English football.
Now, after knocking Manchester United off their Premier League title perch, City have to start work immediately not merely to stay top but to extend that trophy-chasing ambition into European competition.
Last season’s controversy-scarred exploration of the Champions League and Europa League was just a start, a dipping of the club’s toe into the European waters. Next season manager Roberto Mancini intends to be fully in the swim – and this means spending more money and bringing in more superstar players.
Initially City are considering ways and means to prise Premier top scorer Robin Van Persie away from Arsenal or, failing that, perhaps Zlatan Ibrahimovic away from Milan.
Van Persie, his wife Bouchra and family are happy in London and both, on and off the pitch, have enjoyed the responsibility of the captain which the Dutchman took over on the departure of Cesc Fabregas for Barcelona last August.
However his contract expires at the end of next season and initial talks on Wednesday about an extension with Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger and chief executive Ivan Gazidis did not end well.
Manchester City would offer Arsenal £25m and pay Van Persie £250,000-a-week. Arsenal are ready to match that but money is not the only issue. Van Persie has scored 37 goals in all competitions this past season in all competitions but he wants to win team titles as well as personal accolades.
Manchester United and newly-crowned Italian champions Juventus are also waiting and watching from the wings.
Wenger has tried to persuade Van Persie that the club intends to reach higher than ‘merely’ securing a regular place in the Champions League. He has pointed to the £9m signing of Lukas Podolski and insisted that others will follow.
A decision before Euro 2012 is unlikely. That will give Arsenal more time to line up new players . . . but also offer Van Persie a grand stage on which to increase his personal value still further.
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