And stories are emerging this week of the club's plans. There seems to have been a concerted briefing of journalists, and the headline name on his way out is Craig Bellamy. Daniel Taylor reports in The Guardian today that Bellamy is allowed to leave if we find a buyer:
That leaves Bellamy facing a decision about whether to stay and fight for his place, having effectively won a similar battle with Robinho, or leave a club where he is not expected to feature prominently. If the latter is the case, he might also have to consider taking a pay cut to help engineer a move. Bellamy, who turned 31 this week, earns £95,000 a week and when the Tottenham manager, Harry Redknapp, was asked about his admiration for the Wales international he suggested it would be out of his club's price range. "City bought him for £12m and the player must be on considerably high wages," he said. "I just don't see it happening."
While this is big news in the sense that Bellamy was one of our best players last season, it's no real surprise. Yes, he was the icon and talisman of Mark Hughes' Manchester City, but it is for precisely that reason he should go. Everything that made him so good under his compatriot: his personal loyalty to Hughes and Bowen, his questioning his team-mates' work ethic, his rage and fire against those around him - makes him destructive under Roberto Mancini. After their repeated clashes last season a departure is likely if Spurs, Everton or Villa can find the money.
Some of the other names likely to go are obvious. Taylor mentions Roque Santa Cruz, Robinho and Stephen Ireland. James Ducker tweeted two days ago that Jô, Nedum Onuoha, Felipe Caicedo and Javi Garrido were also allowed to leave.
One area of disagreement is Micah Richards. He was included on Ducker's list but today both the Guardian and The Sun said that the club were keen on keeping him. This is a surprise, given the arrival of Jérôme Boateng. (There is literally nothing that Richards can do on a football pitch that Boateng cannot.) Mancini clearly likes Zabaleta so I can't see Richards playing too much football this year. But then he has only just turned 22 and so we still might hope for some more development out of him yet.
Ireland and Onuoha are both 24, though, and at the age where we can't hang on to them for much longer. The decline of Ireland over the past year has been very sad but a move is right for him. Onuoha has never quite looked established in the side and this move could well have come at any time last summer or the summer before.
It's sad to see players to whom I am attached depart, and the Academy players certainly are part of that. (I don't desperately care where Jô or Santa Cruz play their football to be frank.) But then I'd rather see Ireland and Onuoha have successful careers elsewhere than play for our reserves and further stagnate. It's all part of the natural processes of a club.