Football: Manchester City spree sends warning to title rivals

LONDON, England (AFP) - While Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea have all struggled to land their top transfer targets, Manchester City have laid down a significant marker to their title rivals with a £90 million (S$175 million) spending spree.

City's Abu Dhabi-based owners have never been shy about splashing the cash, but the arrival of new manager Manuel Pellegrini and the perceived weakness of their rivals has given Sheikh Mansour an extra incentive to flex his financial muscles.

After surrendering the Premier League to United in tame fashion and then suffering the indignity of losing to Wigan in the FA Cup final, City's hierarchy were quick to dismiss the unpopular Roberto Mancini before hiring Chilean coach Pellegrini with the promise of major investment.

Pellegrini's bosses have been as good as their word, with Jesus Navas, Stevan Jovetic, Alvaro Negredo and Fernandinho all arriving at Eastlands in a matter of weeks.

Navas, a fleet-footed Spain winger, cost £15 million from Sevilla and should add more pentration from midfield.

Montenegro forward Jovetic, who cost £22 million from Fiorentina, is expected to bring invention and a killer instinct to the forward line.

He will be partnered at times by Negredo, a £20.6 million signing from Sevilla who has been dubbed 'the beast' due to his imposing physical style.

Pellegrini's first signing was his most expensive to date as Fernandinho, a powerful Brazil midfielder, joined from Shakhtar Donetsk for £30 million.

Understandably, Pellegrini is delighted with his club's backing and he believes City's ability to bring in all the new faces early in pre-season could prove crucial in the title race.

"I'm very happy and that's why with (director of football) Txiki (Begiristain) we tried to do it is as soon as possible. That was very important for us," Pellegrini said.

"We thought it was the best way to do it. We are very happy with what we've done but what happens with other teams is very difficult for me to compare." In constrast to Pellegrini's huge outlay, there has been a surprising lack of activity across the city at Old Trafford.

New United manager David Moyes has been frustrated in his attempts to lure Cesc Fabregas away from Barcelona, with two bids rejected by the Catalans before the former Arsenal midfielder announced he would be staying in Spain.

Moyes's only signing since replacing the retired Alex Ferguson is young Uruguayan defender Guillermo Varela, who arrived from Penarol for an undisclosed fee.

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is keen to keep his club's spending under control due to the new financial fairplay rules and has so far scantioned only three signings for Jose Mourinho on his return to Stamford Bridge.

Germany winger Andre Schurrle cost £18 million from Bayer Leverkusen, Holland midfielder Marco van Ginkel was signed for £8 million from Vitesse Arnhem and veteran Australian goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer joined on a free transfer from Fulham.

There is still the potential for one marquee capture, however, as Mourinho continues to chase Wayne Rooney after United snubbed two bids of up to £25 million for the England forward, who has made it clear he wants to leave Old Trafford.

Arsenal were expected to transform their inconsistent team with several top-class signings after the board talked up their increased transfer warchest.

But instead, Gunners manager Arsene Wenger has been repeatedly frustrated as Real Madrid striker Gonzalo Higuain opted to join Napoli, while a £40 million offer for unsettled Liverpool forward Luis Suarez was unsuccessful.

Wenger's only signing so far has been 20-year-old French striker Yaya Sanogo, who joined from Auxerre.

With Gareth Bale looking set to join Real Madrid for a world record fee of more than £80 million, Spurs boss Andre Villas-Boas has begun to plan for life without the Wales winger by spending a combined £50 million on Valencia striker Roberto Soldado, Brazilian midfielder Paulinho and FC Twente's Belgian winger Nacer Chadli.

Liverpool, fighting to persuade Suarez to stay at Anfield, have also been busy, signing Sevilla forward Luis Alberto, Spanish playmaker Iago Aspas from Celta Viga and goalkeeper Simon Mignolet from Sunderland.

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