By Mark Ogden and John Percy
With Manchester United overhauling Manchester City to regain the Premier League title, comprehensive plans have already been drawn up by Txiki Begiristain, the director of football at the Etihad Stadium, to rebuild the club’s first-team squad.
With Begiristain and chief executive Ferran Soriano overseeing a root-and-branch review of all departments of the club, the position of manager Roberto Mancini is also set to be discussed before a decision is made on his future beyond the end of the campaign.
Real’s interest in Agüero and PSG’s apparent position of strength in the race to sign Cavani threaten to throw City’s summer plans into disarray, however.
Both Mancini and Begiristain have identified Uruguay forward Cavani as a prime target this summer, with City prepared to pursue the 26-year-old, despite Napoli inserting a €65 million (£55 million) release clause in his contract at Stadio San Paolo.
While Real Madrid’s interest in Agüero is long-standing and no surprise to senior figures at the Etihad, the Argentine forward’s complicated domestic situation has placed doubt over City’s ability to keep the 24-year-old.
Having split with wife Giannina earlier this year, Agüero has since been separated from his three-year-old son Ben, with his estranged wife and child returning to homes in Madrid and Buenos Aires.
City are determined to resist attempts to lure Agüero away from the club, with the former Atlético Madrid striker just two years into a five-year deal at the Etihad. With Real president Florentino Pérez determined to add Agüero to his squad and secure a new contract at the Bernabéu for Cristiano Ronaldo, the reigning Spanish champions are unlikely to miss the opportunity to take advantage of the City player’s personal situation.
Although Atlético forward Radamel Falcao had been regarded as Real’s leading target, rivalry between Madrid’s two main clubs – which forced Real to abandon their move for Agüero two years ago – has forced Real to turn their attentions to the City forward.
Agüero has repeatedly denied suggestions that he moved to England ultimately to secure a transfer to Real and has made no attempt to fuel speculation linking him with a return to the Spanish capital.
Agüero remains central to City’s plans and, with Edin Dzeko expected to be sold this summer, Cavani had been regarded as the ideal partner for the forward whose goal against Queens Park Rangers secured the Premier League title last season.
However, reports in France on Tuesday night claimed that PSG sporting director Leonardo had agreed a deal in principle with Cavani’s advisers.
No deal has yet been struck with Napoli, who are aware of rival interest from City, Real and Chelsea, but Leonardo is understood to have struck an agreement with the Cavani camp worth €8.5 million-a-year (£7.23 million) on a four-year contract.
Should PSG complete a move for Cavani, it would also diminish the prospect of a move by the Qatari-owned French club for Manchester United forward Wayne Rooney, who has been repeatedly linked with a switch to Paris, despite United and the player’s advisers rejecting the likelihood of that happening.
PSG’s move for Cavani and Real’s determination to sign Agüero have created uncertainty as to City’s intentions this summer as they attempt to add to the squad to mount a more sustained challenge for the title and Champions League next season.
Begiristain, who arrived at the Etihad in October, has become the driving force behind City’s summer recruitment plans, in conjunction with Mancini and the club’s scouting team.
The former Barcelona sporting director is understood to have devised a list of potential targets to cover every position from one to 11 in the first team, with a grading system of A, B, C and D players.
Category A targets are regarded as the very best player in their position, blue-chip performers capable of raising the quality of the team instantly.
Those players on the B list are viewed as the best available targets, while those in the C tier are judged to be the best and most promising young players in the world.
Finally, the D list of players is for those who are believed to be the most outstanding teenagers, players who would be signed with the future in mind, rather than an immediate place in the team.
Cavani falls into the A category, as does Colombian forward Falcao, who remains a target, despite his preference for a move to Chelsea should he leave for the Premier League.
The first step in City’s rebuilding is likely to centre around Mancini, however, with the club so far failing to offer a clear indication as to whether he will remain beyond the end of the season.
Mancini could yet deliver the FA Cup for a second time, but his position is unlikely to become clear until after the club return from a two-game postseason tour of the United States next month.