But instead the Premier League side handed Hamburg £19million for the 24-year-old.
The Dutch midfielder had a clause in his contract that said he could leave Hamburg for just £2.3million this summer.
A Dutch source told the Sun: “Hamburg are laughing all the way to the bank.
“No one can believe that a club would act like this in the current economic climate.
“People in Holland are still shaking their heads. Nigel is a decent player but is he worth £16.7million for just four months? No way.
“City are just showing how little regard they have for money — and sense. It is ridiculous.”
Hamburg boss Martin Jol said: “The club just couldn’t refuse the offer.”