APRIL 11 — It certainly appears that Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini (or whoever replaces him... but that’s a different debate) will be signing a lot of strikers this summer.
Sergio Aguero has enjoyed a good debut season in the English Premier League and is almost certain to be wearing a City shirt in August.
But Aguero is the only one that can feel secure, with none of City’s other established strikers — Mario Balotelli, Edin Dzeko or Carlos Tevez — at all certain of their respective futures at the Etihad Stadium.
Balotelli is the latest to be heading for the exit door after infuriating his manager by getting himself sent off with a reckless display in Sunday’s costly defeat at Arsenal.
It was by no means the first time this season that the Italian forward has fallen foul of disciplinary demands, and Mancini appears to have decided that enough is enough, declaring after the game that he will probably attempt to sell Balotelli in the summer.
That could just be a motivational tactic; despite his exasperation, Mancini still found himself capable of watering down his criticism with a reinforcement of his admiration for Balotelli’s abilities, stating once again that he regards the wayward young star as being close to a “son.”
Perhaps Mancini is hoping to scare the striker into mending his ways by threatening to get rid of him — Balotelli is not stupid and he’ll be well aware that he’s unlikely to find a manager as tolerant or indulgent as Mancini, or a pay packet as richly filled as City’s, anywhere else. But at the moment, the prospect of seeing Balotelli in a light blue shirt again is a remote one.
Of course, the same thing was said about Carlos Tevez a few months ago, and the Argentine’s recent return to action is a demonstration that no rifts are ever beyond repair in football. However, Tevez is surely likely to leave Manchester this summer; even though no purchasers were found in January, it should to be a different matter in the more frenetic summer transfer window.
Edin Dzeko is the third of City’s strikers who could be jettisoned at the end of the season. The Bosnian has been frustratingly inconsistent since his arrival 18 months ago: at times dazzling with his deceptively clever footwork, at other times irritatingly ineffective and apparently disinterested. He will probably be retained, but only merits the status of a fringe player rather than a regular starter.
So City may well need to spend the summer embarking upon a serious shopping spree — which is something they were very much hoping to avoid after all the investments that have been made in the last couple of years, but may now be inevitable.
Who will they target? Robin van Persie is an obvious candidate, and the Dutchman could become highly obtainable if Arsenal suffer a late-season dip and fail to qualify for the Champions League.
Chelsea striker Fernando Torres could be another option — the fallen Spanish hero may welcome a change in scenery despite recent hints that he’s approaching a return to the force of old.
Outside the Premier League, City’s riches may be enough to lure Gonzalo Higuain from his super-sub role with Real Madrid, while AC Milan’s highly talented Brazilian striker Alexandre Pato would also be attracted by the promise of a regular place in the starting 11.
If City decide to opt against expensive signings in favour of the development of rising talent, the answer could be right under their noses in the form of 19-year-old John Guidetti, who is already on City’s books and enjoying an excellent season on loan with Feyenoord in the Netherlands.
Swede Guidetti — who models himself on his countryman Zlatan Ibrahimovic and plays with a similar level of intense arrogance — has more or less single-handedly driven his team’s title challenge in the Eredivisie, scoring 19 goals in 21 appearances.
He is petulant, moody and prone to acts of self-destruction — a couple of months ago, for example, he scored a late penalty to give his team the lead against Waalwijk, and celebrated by removing his shirt and whirling it ecstatically above his head... completely forgetting that he had already been booked and therefore receiving a completely avoidable red card that suspended him from the following week’s game against fellow title contenders PSV.
In that respect, Guidetti is perhaps too close to Balotelli for comfort — City may well have decided that they’ve had their fill of talented but wayward precocious young divas. But something has to be done to boost their goalscoring output, which has been the biggest single reason for their late-season collapse in form (they have scored only three goals in their seven away league games in 2012). Will John Guidetti be the new Mario Balotelli?
* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.