Manchester City are weighing up an improved second bid for Raheem Sterling after going in strategically low with their first attempt to persuade Liverpool to sell the England international, offering a £30m package that was immediately rejected by the Anfield club.
City’s first offer in what promises to be a protracted attempt to reach a compromise fee would have meant Liverpool receiving an initial £25m, with another £5m in potential add-ons, but the bid was never likely to succeed at a time when Sterling’s employers insist the player is not for sale.
Liverpool are expected to relax that position if a much higher bid comes in now it is absolutely clear Sterling is determined to leave and has an agent, Aidy Ward, who is willing to embroil himself in a public dispute with the club to help get what he and the player want. However, the likelihood is that City would have to make a substantially larger offer. Liverpool’s valuation of Sterling is over £50m and City having gone in relatively low as their opening move merely increases the chances of drawn-out and potentially difficult negotiations.
Sterling has already turned down Liverpool's offer of a new £100,000-a-week contract and knows City can give him significantly more, as well as the promise of Champions League football and a greater likelihood of winning trophies. Yet City are reluctant to pay an exorbitant fee, not least because they have extensive spending plans elsewhere aimed at making them more credible challengers to Chelsea next season. Ross Barkley has also been featuring prominently in City's thinking but it is not clear whether the deposed champions will follow up their initial interest after an occasionally erratic season from the Everton midfielder.
The bid for Sterling was lodged earlier this week but has come to light only now and fits with Joe Hart's observations earlier in the day that City would be targeting more English players now James Milner has signed for Liverpool. Frank Lampard, Scott Sinclair, Dedryck Boyata and Micah Richards have all been sold or released and Hart, Gaël Clichy and Richard Wright, who has not played a first-team game since a Championship match for Ipswich in 2011, are the only players in City's senior squad to be classed as "homegrown".
“It is a long summer ahead,” Hart said. “With losing Frank and James – and I’m not in the discussions of transfers – I imagine, given homegrown players and stuff like that, it will be top of their list to bring in English players or to promote some of the lads [from the academy].”
Pellegrini intends to promote the Belgian Jason Denayer, after a season on loan at Celtic, the Portuguese Marcos Lopes, who spent last season at Lille, and potentially the Nigerian forward Kelechi Iheanacho. Yet the City chairman, Khaldoon al Mubarak, indicated earlier this week that the owner, Sheikh Mansour, is intent on making "high quality" additions.
There is interest in Wolfsburg's former Chelsea forward Kevin de Bruyne and in Paul Pogba, once of Manchester United, at Juventus. "I am sure we will have a good balanced squad come the start of the season," Hart said. "I am very confident in City as a club going places, which is why I committed my future to them. What they are doing is fantastic. He is a great chairman and they have done amazing things.
“On a personal note I am very sad to see James [MILNER]go as he is personal friend. I have enjoyed every moment with him but football is football. We have been in the game a long time and it is business, his decision and the club’s decision. I wish him all the best as he is a fantastic player but that is not the end of me and him. We have our personal relationship off the pitch.”