Mancini wants Adam Johnson ‘gone’ from City this summer
As Man City consider the fate of Johnson and Balotelli, Arsenal look to Jan Vertonghen to replace unsettled Mertesacker
THE SPARKLE of Adam Johnson's showboating has seriously faded in the eyes of Roberto Mancini, if The Metro is to be believed. After a season of watching his inconsistent winger put in faltering appearances from the bench, it appears the Italian has finally run out of patience.
"Adam has a good talent," Mancini said in a recent interview, "but also it's important he puts this on the pitch, this talent. Sometime he doesn't do this." In the Metro's eyes, that means Johnson's as good as gone. A return to the northeast seems most likely, with Martin O'Neill licking his chops at the prospect of getting the England midfielder, though he'll have to match the £7m City paid for Johnson back in 2010.
In another corner of Eastlands, Mario Balotelli is insisting that while he may be seen as the biggest disaster since the Titanic, he isn't sunk yet at Manchester City. That's the message from agent Mino Raiola who has come to the aid of the stricken Italian striker after his red card against Arsenal on Sunday.
With Sky Blues' boss Roberto Mancini saying Balotelli had "probably" played his last game for the club, Raiola told The Daily Telegraph his client would still be at the Etihad next season.
"I heard Roberto and I can guarantee that the intention is not to sell him," said Raiola. "If so then I will speak in person with Mancini and City… I think there was a misunderstanding. Roberto told me that it meant that the FA would take serious measures that will prevent Balotelli to play."
It then appears that Raiola sat down with Balotelli to compose a press statement that was later released to the Italian news agency Ansa. In the statement Balotelli referred to his sending-off against Arsenal, saying he was "very sorry for what happened and for the disappointment I've caused Man City, particularly Roberto Mancini for whom I have a great respect and whom I love". He added: "At the end of the season I will speak with the club and we'll see."
But has Balotelli's grovelling apology come too late to rescue his ailing City career? According to the Daily Mail, the Italian's antics have infuriated his team-mates with several "demanding" that Mancini gets rid of him. The paper goes on to say that he is no longer trusted in the dressing room and the general feeling is City would do better without the bonkers frontman.
Elsewhere Arsenal defender Per Mertesacker might well have played his last game for the club. The Metro reports that the German defender will be ditched in the summer to make way for Ajax centre-back Jan Vertonghen. Though he's been out injured since February, Mertesacker has never settled in the Arsenal back four since arriving from Werder Bremen last summer and apparently Arsene Wenger has decided enough is enough.
Mertesacker's dressing room peg will likely be taken by Vertonghen with the Metro claiming the Gunners are "close to agreeing a £10 million deal" for the Belgian international. The paper quotes Ajax manager Frank de Boer as saying of Vertonghen: "He will leave. It's 100 per cent sure. I think he's ready to make a next step."
Meanwhile it wasn't just on Britain's motorways that queues formed over the Easter weekend. According to The Sun, traffic is building up behind Fulham's Clint Dempsey following the American's impressive form of late.
The 29-year-old scored a late equaliser against Chelsea on Monday night to take his tally for the league campaign to 16 and The Sun says that's attracted the interest of Arsenal, Tottenham and Manchester United. "We'll see what happens," Dempsey told the paper when asked about his future. "I still have this season and one more at the club. I'm talking with Fulham but we'll see in the summer."
Dempsey arrived at the Cottage from New England Revolution in 2007 and has shown himself capable of playing in midfield, up front or out on the wing. "He's an important player for us and we'd like to keep him," said Fulham boss Martin Jol, who revealed a contract extension has been offered to Dempsey.
Finally, the Daily Mirror reports that Manchester United are considering making a play for Birmingham City keeper Jack Butland. The 19-year-old comes with a £3m price tag and apparently United goalkeeping coach Eric Steele has been watching the England Under 21 in action. Arsenal have also sent scouts to run the rule over Butland and the Mirror says Birmingham are "expecting serious interest in the summer".