James Milner insists he is not surprised to see Mario Balotelli and Carlos Tevez still at Manchester City as they prepare to defend their Barclays Premier League crown.
Both players were at times last season linked with moves away from the Etihad Stadium, with each of them having their own clashes with manager Roberto Mancini. However, both played their part in City's dramatic title triumph and remain in the north-west as they prepared to resume against Southampton.
Despite all the speculation surrounding the likes of Balotelli and Tevez, England midfielder Milner fully expected them to remain with City. He told Five Live's Sportsweek programme: "I'm not surprised, no. They're both top-class players along with many others we are lucky enough to have in the squad."
He continued: "As a team you want to move forward and we say that every year we want to improve on what we did last year. That is as individuals and as a team and as a club. We want to move forward and get bigger and better."
The 26-year-old admits the ramifications should City have not won the title, after being in pole position for so long, could have taken some time to overcome.
"I think it might have taken a while to recover from that," he said. "Obviously with the way the season went, the ups and downs, we had it won and then United seemed to have it won. Then it to'd and fro'd to the last seconds of the season.
"It was great for us to win the league - fantastic achievement but it goes by so quickly and that has gone now."
Neither is Milner looking at United's capture of Robin van Persie, which has given their neighbours a fearsome front line of Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck, Javier Hernandez and the Dutchman.
"We'll just concentrate on ourselves and prepare ourselves as we best can for our season," he said.
"They are a top side: they have shown that over the years and their strengthening but they are not going to be the only club challenging this year."
- James Milner
- Mario Balotelli
- Carlos Tevez
- Manchester City