Sad but not surprising news in Tuesday's 'papers: Stephen Ireland is looking to leave City after a spirit-sapping season. This is no real surprise: Ireland has fallen, in the space of a year, from our best and most important player - our talisman, and - as an Academy graduate - a symbol of the club's enduring soul, to the same misfiring misfit he looked under Stuart Pearce. People say he's regressed to his state two or three years ago, which is true enough, but his excellence in 2008/09 showed that there is another way. That revelation, after the 5-1 against Hull, or his goal in Hamburg, that he could be our Scholes, our Gerrard will be difficult to shake off.
But if we're going to progress we need less sentimentality, not more: and a cool analysis will tell that Ireland and MCFC are now moving in opposite directions. He would not be a bad squad player to have, but he's 24 and keen to be playing regularly. If he can't at City then he will elsewhere.
The suggestion in The Guardian is that he might well go to Everton, in part exchange for Mikel Arteta. It's no secret that we need a creative midfielder, and that Arteta is a very good one. Mark Hughes was interested and it sounds as if the Player Acquisition Group might also be. I have my reservations here. I'm not too keen on our signing players from the Premier League, and one of the reasons for this is the considerable ill will we generated during our pursuit of Joleon Lescott. I'd rather not go through that again this summer. And on a practical level I imagine the Lescott saga will make David Moyes and Bill Kenwright even less keen on selling us Arteta than they would have otherwise been.
But the idea of using Ireland as a makeweight for a deal is a plausible one, as much for Arteta as for James Milner. Ireland would be an interesting replacement for Milner - he's a different type of player, with much less tactical discipline and much more magic - but he could be the man to bring an extra dimension to an Aston Villa side in some need of one. And Martin O'Neill might well see himself as the right sort of manager to put an arm on the shoulder of his fellow Irishman and coax his genius back out of him.
So these are all realistic scenarios. And I'd much rather Ireland went to either of these two than to his boyhood club across town.