Mancini: Barca link no bother
Roberto Mancini (Gallo Images)
Manchester - Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini insisted Friday he was comfortable with personnel changes that appear to have undermined his position with the Premier League champions.
The Italian saw Spaniard Txiki Begiristain appointed as director of football by City this week, strengthening a Barcelona connection which began when they made Ferran Soriano their chief executive.
The double Barca link has has led to speculation that Pep Guardiola, currently taking a year out of the game after phenomenal success at the Camp Nou, is being lined up to replace Mancini who has endured a poor Champions League with City to date.
But Mancini, who has also seen the club's football administrator Brian Marwood sidelined into a role as managing director of City's yet-to-be-opened Academy, was adamant he had no problems with the new structure.
"I think the next three or four years will be very important for us," Mancini said Friday. "Now, with Ferran and Begiristain, we can work very well and improve our team.
"I've always believed my future is here. I signed a contract for the next five years because I believed in this squad and because I can work with serious people like the owner and the chairman. To work with these people is fantastic.
"Now I think we have time to improve and build a stronger team.
"I played against Txiki many years ago and I am very happy," said Mancini, who did not deny reports he spoke to French second tier outfit Monaco after winning the Premier League title with City last May, with the Guardian newspaper reporting he held "extensive talks" with Monaco.
Mancini said Friday: "Last year I was very close with seven, eight teams but I prefer to stay here because I work well here the first three years."
Regarding Begiristain, Mancini said: "He has a lot of experience with a top club like Barcelona and this is another reason we can work together. Also, if we did well the last two years, we can do even better in the future.
"It's important he worked with Barcelona. He won everything with the club, he built a fantastic team so I think it will be very important."
Nevertheless, the appointment of two high-profile former Barca men will be seen as undermining Mancini's position.
Despite City, unbeaten in the Premier League this term, trailing current leaders Chelsea by just a point and only five months on from being crowned champions of England, Mancini's men have yet to scale the heights they hit last season.
The criticism of his club's form drove the manager to joke: "I didn't know we were the only unbeaten team in the Premier League. Last week, I thought we were in last position in the table."
But there is no doubt the Guardiola speculation will only intensify as the season progresses.
"I read that now Txiki is here and next year Guardiola or another manager will come here but this is not my problem," said Mancini.
"I'm here, I want to continue to work well because at this moment we're ready to build and improve a strong team," added the manager, whose side are away to West Ham on Saturday.
"I'm very happy because we have a new CEO and also he worked for Barcelona. He has big experience of a top team. I have my job, Txiki has his job, Ferran has his job but I think we can work very well together and we can work quickly."
Whatever the appointments mean for Mancini's long-term future, the City manager has had some good news from defender Micah Richards, who injured his knee during last week's win over Swansea.
Earlier in the week, the club announced he could be out for up to four months but Mancini said Friday: "In my opinion, he will be out three or four weeks maybe. One month maximum.
"I don't know why people said three months. It's not a bad injury.
"He didn't tear his meniscus. He just had two stitches in his knee, for me that is not a four-month injury and that's good for us."