Roberto Mancini has praised seven Manchester City players ahead of an FA Cup final against Wigan Athletic that may represent the last chance for them to win a trophy before departing.
Carlos Tevez, Edin Dzeko, Gareth Barry, Joleon Lescott, and Kolo Touré could leave in the close season as they are either out of contract or have only a year left. There is also a question mark over Samir Nasri, whose form has drawn criticism from Mancini, remaining at City while Costel Pantilimon, who has played in every FA Cup round instead of Joe Hart and should start against Wigan, may seek a regular starting berth elsewhere.
While Pantilimon and Nasri signed after the 2011 FA Cup final win, and Touré was serving a drugs ban that made him unavailable, the others were all involved in the match-day 18 for the 1-0 Wembley victory over Stoke City, with only Dzeko being an unused reserve. Last season all were members of the squad who gained City a first championship in 44 years.
Mancini did not confirm which of these players might leave but said of their contributions during the past three seasons: "They did very well, because if we won three trophies until now in the last three years and we have another chance to win another trophy this is because our players did very well.
"In this moment, it is better we think about this final. After we have time to talk about everything – if there will be some players who leave the club, some who come in. But in this moment it is better we focus on the final."
Mancini's position may depend on City winning the final after a weak title defence – they are 10 points behind the champions, Manchester United – and finishing bottom of their Champions League group, the second successive year the side failed to progress to the knockout phase. Asked how vital is the final not only for the club but for him personally, Mancini said: "It is very important because it is the final, the second final in the last three years, and it is very important for us and the club," he said.
Yet he is aware how ruthless football can be. "I won seven trophies in Inter in four years and they sack me after four years [in 2008]. This is football. I know football enough to understand this situation."
Kolo Touré was signed by Mancini's predecessor, Mark Hughes, from Arsenal in July 2009 and his younger brother, the midfielder Yaya, said of his departure: "Yes, that is sad. In life you cannot be happy all the time and Kolo is a great man, a great personality and my big brother. He was always giving me good advice and important advice and he has told me not to worry, everything will be fine.
"When you come to a big club you need to have some guys helping and looking out for you and Kolo was an important factor for me to come.
"I have really, really enjoyed my football in England and I want to continue that as much as possible."
Pablo Zabaleta, whose fine season makes him the outstanding candidate for City's player of the season, joined before any of the seven who might leave and he is conscious of their contribution to City's success since Mancini became the manager in December 2009. "The development of the club has been incredible the last few years. I signed in 2008 and I saw massive change in the club. When you look at the team today we have great players and always expect to keep winning trophies.
"That is why it is important for us on Saturday to lift a trophy."
Micah Richards, whose serious knee injury has limited him to six matches this season, has two years left on his contract. If the defender is not offered a new deal he could be another player to depart. But he knows that to do so would mean missing out on the virtual guarantee of competing for major honours, so the 24-year-old wants to play for many more seasons at City.
"I have been here 10 years and I want to be here another 10 years, whether playing or in the squad," he said. "I just want to be here and will only keep giving 100%."