City pull plug on Eto'o transfer

LONDON: It seemed the Cameroon striker was bound for Eastlands a fortnight ago, when Barcelona accepted a bid for the star, who scored in last season's Champions League final triumph against Manchester United.

However, the deal quickly became mired in a contractual dispute between Eto'o and the Catalan outfit.

The player, who is about to embark on the last year of his contract at the Nou Camp, felt he should receive a significant portion of the £18million City were willing to pay as he would be entitled to leave for nothing next summer.

Blues boss Mark Hughes initially signalled his intention to wait for Eto'o to resolve the wrangle.

Yet, as the week has dragged on, the argument has just got more confusing and complicated.

It was suggested City were ready to offer Eto'o a deadline of this weekend to determine his future.

In the end, chairman Khaldoon al-Mubarak did not even give the 28-year-old that long, with Barcelona officially contacted today with confirmation the deal was off.

"Samuel Eto'o is undoubtedly a fine footballer but the circumstances surrounding him were such that the deal could not be completed," City chief executive Garry Cook told www.mcfc.co.uk.

"We now feel the time is right to pursue other avenues. We have a clear strategic transfer plan, which we continue to follow."

While it could be viewed the latest development is merely posturing on City's part, privately the club are adamant the transfer is now highly unlikely to go ahead.

To an extent, they understand Eto'o's demands. However, they also feel a contract said to be worth around £200,000 a week was alone enough to keep Eto'o happy and are unwilling to let the situation drag on any longer.

After returning from a pre-season training camp in Germany, City are due to head for South Africa on Wednesday lunchtime for a three-match tour that will begin preparations for a new campaign that opens at Blackburn on August 15.

Hughes wants a sense of clarity about his squad. As long as Eto'o dithered, such a position was impossible to achieve, leading to tonight's statement.

City will now look at other targets, which should not prove as difficult to secure, although with Roque Santa Cruz already signed and Carlos Tevez set to follow once the Argentina forward's third-party ownership status has been changed, it is arguable whether the Blues are desperate for more strikers anyway.

Joleon Lescott remains on Hughes' wish-list, as does Chelsea's England skipper John Terry.

Given the difficulty in signing either Terry or Eto'o, and the debacle of what was an audacious attempt to sign Kaka eventually became last January, it is clear City's wealth is still not attracting the marquee names.

That would all change should the Eastlands outfit be able to offer Champions League combat, a situation that might well become reality in 12 months' time, should Hughes be able to add more players of the calibre of his other major summer purchase, Gareth Barry.