Chelsea defender Wayne Bridge has been given permission to speak to Manchester City about a move to Eastlands, the west London club has confirmed. The 28-year-old is top of City boss Mark Hughes's transfer window shopping list, and the Blues are ready to sell the left-back for around £12m.
The former Southampton player, who has won 32 England caps, only recently extended his Chelsea contract until 2012, but he struggles to hold down a first-team spot at Stamford Bridge when Ashley Cole is fit. A desire for regular football could persuade Bridge to join City and kick off what promises to be a busy transfer window for Hughes, who has been handed a substantial warchest by the club's Abu Dhabi-based owners.
Hughes confirmed that City have agreed an undisclosed fee with Chelsea, and he hopes to conclude the deal in the next 24 hours. "My understanding is the clubs have agreed a fee," he said.
"We need to speak to the boy and try to agree personal terms. If we can do that hopefully Wayne will be a Manchester City player, that's the aim. Wayne will probably travel to Manchester and hopefully negotiations will go well and he can have a medical tomorrow (Saturday)."
Chelsea manager Luiz Felipe Scolari has to sell before he can buy in the window, and he admitted he would have no problem letting Bridge leave. "If they have a good deal, it is no problem for me," he said. "But it is best you ask (chief executive) Peter Kenyon as he knows everything that is happening.
"I have a meeting with Peter after training and I will ask him then about what is happening and whether we have a deal or not. If any club wants to buy a player from Chelsea, they have to offer big money because if they play for Chelsea they are very good players. When a club wants one player from Chelsea my advice is offer but don't offer less, offer big, because Chelsea is a very big club and has fantastic players."
Scolari had made it clear late last year that he was keen to sign an attacking player to bolster his options, but he insists he has yet to ask the board to fund any new signings. "I don't say to Peter that I need to buy some players - I have a good squad," he said.
"I have not spoken to Peter about anything for five days. If I want a player I tell Peter first but I have not done so in 2008 or today. I'm happy with my players here, I don't want other players."
Scolari will field a young team in Saturday's FA Cup third round against League One side Southend at Stamford Bridge, but the Brazilian is adamant he is not disrespecting the competition. Centre-back Michael Mancienne, who was called up by England after a successful loan spell at Wolverhampton Wanderers, is likely to feature, while Lee Sawyer and Jeffrey Bruma are also in the squad.
"I have some problems in the squad. Five or six players who have played a lot more games will not be involved in this game," he said. "I know the history. It's a fantastic competition and the players like to play and arrive in the final. But now is the time to train and look at some situations for the players.
"Five or six won't play. Michael Ballack is suspended, John Terry is suspended, Jose Bosingwa has a little injury. Petr Cech won't play. But I have a good squad and I receive two or three young players. I gave Mancienne time to grow up. Now he's better than before.
"When I arrived, I had four central defenders, but since then I've never had four. I've had three or two and had many injuries. Now I give Mancienne a chance to come back. If I have an injury, I am not afraid any more."