Manchester City must sign Atletico Madrid midfielder Saul Niguez this summer, even if it means sacrificing one of their own first team regulars.
According to The Times, Spanish champions Atletico Madrid have proposed a trade deal with City which would see the 26-year-old head to the Etihad Stadium and Bernardo Silva go the other way. The report claims that Atletico believe Saul is worth around the same price (£70m) as the Portuguese winger and have offered City the chance to swap the players to aid their financial fair play status.
Both players are said to be disgruntled at their current clubs and are open to moves this summer. Saul is reportedly unhappy with the amount of game-time he received during the 2020/21 campaign, whilst Bernardo is considering his future in England. [The Times]
Back in 2015, Atletico manager Diego Simeone claimed that Saul “has absolutely everything” and heaped praise on the Spanish international midfielder. The Argentine told Goal.com: “It’s clear that Saul has heard a thousand times what I think of him. He has absolutely everything. He can play anywhere in the midfield, he can score, he can pass well.
“We will be very demanding, because we believe that being demanding is the only way to make players like him grow.”
Manchester City’s director of football Txiki Begiristain could pull off a masterstroke by sending Bernardo to Atletico and receiving Saul in return. Fernandinho is out of contract at the end of the month and City are poised to lose one of their few enforcers in midfield, which leaves a space in the squad for a player like Saul to come in and stake a claim for a place next season.
This is not to say that City should be rushing to kick Bernardo out of the door. The Portugal international has been a classy performer for the club in recent years, with an average WhoScored rating of above 7.0 in his past three Premier League campaigns for the club. However, The Times claimed that he is open to leaving City, and therefore Txiki must pounce on the opportunity to bring in Saul if it allows Bernardo to get his wish of moving to a new club as well.
The £238k-per-week Saul is not a technical and creative player like Bernardo, but he could offer some steel to City’s midfield. In 340 competitive career appearances for Atletico and Spain, he has averaged four tackles and interceptions per game, along with 2.6 aerial battles won and 1.7 clearances.
For context, no Manchester City player managed four tackles and interceptions per game in the 2020/21 Premier League campaign and Aymeric Laporte was the only player who could match Saul’s 2.6 aerial battles won per game.
This suggests that the Atletico stalwart could be a superb addition to Manchester City’s squad and add a different dimension to Pep Guardiola’s midfield. Txiki could pull a masterstroke by bringing Saul to the Etihad in exchange for Bernardo if the deal goes through this summer.