Man City must fend off Barcelona and Arsenal to sign Derby star

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Manchester City are hoping to steal a march on a host of Europe’s elite clubs in the race to sign Derby young gun Will Hughes.

David Platt, City’s assistant coach, was a spectator for the Rams’ 2-1 defeat at Brighton at the weekend, where he was thought to be running the rule over the 17-year-old sensation.

Hughes, an attacking midfielder who claims his style of play is modelled on that of Spanish greats Xavi and Andres Iniesta, is thought to be attracting the interest of Barcelona; though they are one of many European colossus’ in the hunt for the England under-21 international.

The fact that the Catalan giants are sniffing around an English prospect is indicative of what a rare talent he is, but a move closer to home looks more likely at this stage of his career.

Both Arsenal and Tottenham are among the Premier League heavyweights believed to be harbouring a serious interest in Hughes, but the Citizens are set to make the first move and aim to get a deal thrashed out before the transfer window slams shut.

It is reported that a fee in the region of £6m would be enough for Derby to part with their rising star who has established himself as a key member of Nigel Clough’s young side, making 29 appearances this season after debuting last term.

Young players with genuine potential to threaten the first team is one aspect that Roberto Mancini’s squad are found wanting in, with Sheikh Mansour’s billions being invested in gaggle after gaggle of ready-made world beaters.

This causes obvious problems when it comes to squad rotation, as the Italian has found out first hand with the likes of Carlos Tevez, Mario Balotelli and Edin Dzeko all acting up at least once after being forced to sit out games; it’s impossible to please everyone.

As Manchester United have demonstrated, a strong group of talented youngsters who are happy to bide their time on the bench can prove crucial in the battle to win trophies. They remain hungry to take their opportunities when they’re presented, unlike a big name player who has thrown his toys out of the pram after being overlooked from the starting XI.

Given the magnitude of interest in the player, Hughes’ signing would represent something of a coup for the Citizens in their wavering bid to retain the Premier League crown, which can be backed at 10/3 following their 2-0 win over Arsenal at the weekend.

All odds and markets accurate as of publication’s time and date

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