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Aug, 12, 2008

Hughes considering future as City crisis deepens

Manchester City boss Mark Hughes is believed to be considering his future as the crisis deepens over owner Thaksin Shinawatra's status. With the former Prime Minister of Thailand reportedly short on funds it is thought the club are looking to offload several of its star players, including Vedran Corluka and Stephen Ireland, in order to put their finances on an even keel.

It emerged on Tuesday that Thaksin allegedly had to borrow £2million from then-chairman John Wardle to pay staff wages. And while that advance, the third in a year, has been repaid it appears City are being run on a series of short-term loans. With Wardle quitting City in protest at Thaksin's ownership there appears to be less room for manoeuvre.

Hughes feels that assurances he was given when agreeing to take over at the City of Manchester Stadium in June are now worthless. And with Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore keeping a close eye on the owner's legal status the situation could get much worse.

Hughes admitted after Saturday's victory over AC Milan in a pre-season friendly that Croatian international Corluka was attracting interest from Tottenham Hotspur and could be sold before the start of the season. But he was furious at reports the club had touted Stephen Ireland to other Premier League clubs for £8million - and that he was actually in Sunderland for a medical when he should have been preparing to face the Italian giants.

It's a very different situation to five weeks ago, when Hughes was allowed to spend around £19million to bring Brazil international Jo to the club from CSKA Moscow. It now seems that Hughes' dreams of being at a spending club rather than a selling club are going up in smoke.

Hughes is believed to want clarification on the situation at City plus their future plans and if that involves a fire sale before the end of August then the former Blackburn Rovers boss could follow his players through the exit door.

Shinawatra fled Thailand via the Beijing last week before a court hearing on corruption and fraud charges, with his wife also on bail after being handed a three-year prison sentence for fraud, and insists he will not leave the UK to hear his fate. However, he could be extradited back to Thailand should the ruling People's Power Party, supposedly sympathetic to ex-PM, make an application to the British government.

Scudamore said: 'We are clearly going to have to establish the status of his return to England and where that leaves him in regard to the legal process in Thailand.

'Our rules are clear that somebody has to be convicted of something to fail the 'fit and proper person' criteria and, until someone does, he still falls within our rules. But there is no point in having this test unless it is meaningful, as we have always said it is, and it has to be applied.

'We need to make sure that, if somebody is guilty of something, we will deal with it.'

Around £1billion worth of assets were frozen when he was overthrown by a military coup and it now appears unlikely he will ever get that money back.

It leaves Shinawatra with a reported £200million, and while that would ordinarily be a fortune, in terms of football investment it is small change.

But executive chairman Garry Cook has insisted Shinawatra remains committed to his '10-year vision' for the club.

'City's future is not in jeopardy,' Cook told the Manchester Evening News. 'In the short term, it is business as usual. We don't rely on Dr Thaksin's money.

'When Mark Hughes makes a decision we go through the normal process, which can include banks, finance, or a whole bunch of different things just like any other club.

'He is willing to look at whatever it takes to make City a great football club. This is a guy who loves City.'

Cook spent time with Thaksin in Beijing before he returned to England.

'I gave him an update on the club and we talked about new player acquisitions,' said Cook. 'We also talked over dinner about why he had bought the club and his intentions.

'It was really clear he wants to be at this football club for the next 10 years. He wants to build a dynasty and he was disappointed that people think he wanted to get in and back out.'

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