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Manchester City Transfer Plans: Koulibaly closes the gap, but who else does Pep need?

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Pep Guardiola and Kalidou Koulibaly

Image credit: Eurosport

ByPete Sharland
13/07/2020 at 13:21 | Updated 13/07/2020 at 14:21
@PeteSharland

In the next part of our look at the transfer plans of the ‘Big Six’, Pete Sharland turns his attention to Manchester City, the team closest to challenging Liverpool.

Caveats are no longer needed, it has been confirmed that Manchester City's European ban has been voided by CAS. City will be playing Champions League football, let the spending begin!

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What’s the situation?

Pep Guardiola and his team had two years to enjoy being statistically one of the greatest Premier League champions ever. Now, barring a spectacular drop-off, it looks like Liverpool are going to break most of the records they set in the 100-point, 2017-18 season campaign.

Guardiola is too good a manager and too fierce a competitor to take this lying down. Jurgen Klopp has beat him in the race to become the first Premier League manager to win the Champions League since Roberto Di Matteo and will now take his domestic records as well. Guardiola won’t stand for this.

Pep Guardiola: We are far behind Liverpool

00:01:00

To try and combat Liverpool’s juggernaut, expect City to spend big. As we touched on in the Liverpool piece on Wednesday, City and Chelsea are in a unique financial situation due to the status of their owners. It’s abundantly clear that Chelsea are using this to their advantage and it would be a huge surprise if City didn’t do the same.

City were ravaged by injuries this season but Guardiola knows he can’t make excuses given the amount he has spent. Unlike Liverpool, City have key members of their squad at the wrong end of their careers and if he cannot deliver a European title (which could be won this season) then his time at City could be drawing to a close.

This is possibly the most pressure Guardiola has been under in his career. Expect him to react accordingly.

Who’s coming in?

Players linked with transfer in:

  • Nathan Ake
  • Kalidou Koulibaly
  • Jack Grealish
  • Leon Bailey
  • David Alaba

It’s no secret that City need centre-backs. Aymeric Laporte is an excellent player but he cannot stay fit and he cannot be expected to do it alone. John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi are not good enough and it’s evident when Kyle Walker and Fernandinho are playing there that they are make-shifts at best.

Kalidou Koulibaly is obviously the dream signing. The Napoli centre-half is one of the best in the world and unlike Liverpool, City can actually afford to pay Aurelio De Laurentiis’ asking price. Koulibaly would instantly bring City’s back four up a notch, something that is desperately needed given they currently have the fifth best defensive record in the league.

Koulibaly close to Liverpool AND Man City… so which rumour is right? – Euro Papers

00:01:36

A more likely signing is that of Bournemouth defender Nathan Ake. The Dutchman has benefitted from regular football that he wasn’t getting at Chelsea but now the Cherries are under threat from relegation. City will reportedly make a move for Ake regardless of whether Bournemouth go down or not but it isn’t clear whether that would be in addition to, or as an alternative to Koulibaly. It also remains to be seen whether or not Chelsea would move for Ake as they reportedly had a buy-back clause inserted when they sold him.

At the other end of the pitch goals certainly aren’t a problem: City are the top scorers in the league and have an attack that would be the envy of most. Yet still they are linked with attacking players. Jack Grealish and Leon Bailey are both possible incomings with Leroy Sane having completed his move to Bayern Munich. There will always be concerns about Sergio Aguero’s fitness but 16 goals in 1460 Premier League minutes is a mighty impressive return. Three other players have hit at least 10 goals for City whilst an astonishing seven players overall have reached double-digits for goals and assists combined.

The other big worry will be David Silva, now 34 and entering the final hurrah of his career at the Etihad. The bulk of his creative responsibility will fall on the highly impressive Bernardo Silva but every City fan will be desperately hoping that Phil Foden sees more playing time. The same goes for both Eric and Aleix Garcia.

Who’s leaving?

Players linked with transfer out:

  • Leroy Sane
  • Sergio Aguero
  • Claudio Bravo
  • Joao Cancelo
  • John Stones
  • Kevin De Bruyne
  • David Silva

The big departure is Sane and that has already been confirmed. Claudio Bravo will likely depart whilst if suitable offers for Joao Cancelo and John Stones come in you’d expect them to go as well. It’s a shame in some ways because it feels as if Cancelo still has a lot to offer, particularly as Kyle Walker enters his 30s.

Losing Sane is a blow on paper but in reality his injuries have made him a player Guardiola cannot rely on. The release of his wages plus a fee from Bayern will be welcome. City would be remiss not to try and the balance the books a little after everything that has happened with the UEFA Fair Play regulations.

Guardiola insinuated a couple of weeks ago that he is unaware whether City will still have the same level of spending power, so perhaps we may end up seeing a sell-to-buy approach that UEFA wants from them.

"I don't know after coronavirus if the situation for clubs financially has changed. We are going to see at the end of this season.

"In all the places I was - Barcelona, Bayern Munich and here - if the club says 'we cannot afford it', then we cannot afford it.

"It depends if people stay. Maybe in these next two months, the team makes a step forward and we decide to continue with the same people."

Conclusion

City are the best-placed to challenge Liverpool and if Laporte had been fit for the season it would have been interesting to see how things would have played out.

But there are a couple of holes appearing in the squad, most noticeably in defence and midfield. If City can fill those gaps, and have a bit more luck with injuries it’s tough to bet against them being in the hunt for the title next season. Plus whilst a lot of their senior players are older than Liverpool’s there are also players like Raheem Sterling, Gabriel Jesus, Rodri and Bernardo who are further into their prime. If someone like Jesus takes an even bigger step forward the squad gets better. If that squad is supplemented by the singings they need then it might all fall back into place for Guardiola. Don’t dismiss their chances next season on account of this extraordinary season from Liverpool.

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