Manchester City midfielder James Milner expects that striking duo Mario Balotelli and Carlos Tevez will stay to try and fire the Blues to another Premier League title.
The 26-year-old midfielder believes that despite the interest shown in both the Italian and the Argentine, the two front-men will remain as key members of Roberto Mancini’s squad for the 2012-13 season.
“I’m not surprised [about the speculation], no. They’re both top-class players along with many others we are lucky enough to have in the squad,” he told BBC Five Live‘s ‘Sportsweek’.
“As a team you want to move forward and we say that every year we want to improve on what we did last year. That is as individuals and as a team and as a club. We want to move forward and get bigger and better.”
Both Tevez and Balotelli looked to have damaged their relationships with the manager irreparably last season. Tevez exiled himself in Argentina after refusing to warm up as a substitute away to Bayern Munich in the Champions League in September, while Balotelli’s disciplinary problems – both on and off the field – looked to have left Mancini with no other choice but to cut them loose.
However, both returned to the matchday squad for the title run-in, and were pivotal in ensuring that City lifted the Premier League trophy on the final day of the season ahead of rivals Manchester United. Balotelli had a great Euro 2012 with Italy, while Tevez has returned noticeably leaner after a pre-season of hard fitness work.
Milner suggests that winning the title was incredibly important psychologically, as ceding top spot to United may have caused his side long-term problems.
“I think it might have taken a while to recover from that,” he added.
“Obviously with the way the season went, the ups and downs, we had it won and then United seemed to have it won.
“Then it to’d and fro’d to the last seconds of the season.”
While it was indeed a great day for City fans, Milner insists that the players must look to the future: “It was great for us to win the league – fantastic achievement but it goes by so quickly and that has gone now.
“We’ll just concentrate on ourselves and prepare ourselves as we best can for our season.”
And Milner is certain that, although United possess formidable firepower with the acquisition of Robin van Persie, there are other threats to their crown. “They are a top side: they have shown that over the years and they’re strengthening, but they are not going to be the only club challenging this year.”