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Dec 21, 2009

Transfer speculation begins as Mancini arrives

Roberto Mancini will be unveiled as Manchester City's new manager at a press conference at 5pm GMT on Monday, and already there are rumours about his transfer targets.

• Mourinho warns Mancini

It has already been suggested that Mancini was approached by the Premier League club two weeks ago, meaning there has been time for the new man to assess the squad and consider where he would need to strengthen once the transfer window opens next Friday.

The Sun claims that both Joleon Lescott and Wayne Bridge have been identified as weak links in the City defence and could be the first players to be offloaded. However, Lescott cannot play for another club until July as he played for Everton in August.

Said to be top of Manchester City's hitlist is Juventus defender Giorgio Chiellini. It is thought that Mancini sees Chiellini as the perfect partner for Kolo Toure in the centre of defence and would leave Lescott out in the cold in a World Cup year.

The Daily Telegraph has earmarked Maicon, managed by Mancini for two years at Internazionale, as another possible target. That would place another England international, Micah Richards, in fear of his future with City.

Inter president Massimo Moratti has been quick to warn City off highly-rated teenage striker Mario Balotelli. Moratti insisted the Italy Under-21 international was not for sale.

"I think they (Manchester City) have made a great signing,'' said Moratti. "But they should not inquire about Balotelli for January because we are not selling him.''

Balotelli has made just six league starts for Jose Mourinho's side this campaign.

Robinho, meanwhile, is eager to meet with Mancini, according to a report in The Sun.

Robinho, who has struggled for fitness and form all season, has been linked with a January move to Barcelona.

Robinho said: "I want to talk with Mancini. I've heard good news about his work and City still have plenty of time to finish the season well. The decision for Hughes to go was down to the owners but it did not come as a surprise after all the rumours.

"But the Champions League zone is not so far for us and we are in the Carling Cup semi-finals. Performances have not been so negative as some people think.''

Peter Taylor, who signed Mancini when in charge of Leicester nearly a decade ago, believes it will be next season before City realise their dream of breaking into the top four under their new boss.

Taylor said: "I thought Roberto was a diamond of a man you can trust. He was a magnificent player who was coming to the end of his career when I signed him.

"But he wanted to have a look at the English scene, get back to full fitness and be a success. He was an excellent professional. I did not have a clue at that stage that he would go on to manage in Italy and win the things he has as a manager.

"But what I did notice was that he knew about training (methods) and he showed an interest in the way we trained at Leicester. I know he is serious about what he does and if he does anything, he does it well.''

Taylor, who is looking to return to football after parting company with Wycombe in October, added: "I am sure Roberto will have the respect of the Manchester City players.

"It will be difficult to start with because the City players are disappointed that Mark Hughes has gone, but I think he will win them over and he has got a good style about him.

"No-one is blaming him for taking the job. He is not the one who has made the change of manager and, in that respect, I don't think the players will have the hump.''

However, Taylor believes the top-four goal given to Mancini by the City hierarchy may be beyond him this season because of the quality of the Premier League.

He added: "I said three or four weeks ago that Manchester City will break into the top four of the Premier League next season, but not this season. It is one of the toughest leagues in the world and money cannot buy a team that top-four place straight away.

"If it did, it would not be such a good league. It would also be boring if that happens and you only have to look at the quality of the five teams above Manchester City at present.''

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