Manchester City mean business. It’s not even June yet but already they’ve announced the signing of Bernardo Silva, one of the most exciting young talents in world football and a player who lit up the Champions League with last season’s fairytale side, Monaco.
Before the month of May is out, City may well reveal their financial clout again. The whispers are getting louder. It looks like a deal is almost done for Benfica goalkeeper Ederson, while Goal have reported that Benjamin Mendy could arrive at Eastlands, as well as Alexis Sanchez and Kyle Walker after club representatives were reported to have met with the pair in London. All in all, City are a Monopoly player buying up all the best spots. It looks like great business. Landing on the Etihad Stadium next season won’t be a nice experience for anyone.
There’s a more impressive side to this, though – how early City are doing their business.
In the recent past, the club have often been slow to make their signings. Last season, John Stones arrived just weeks before the start of the Premier League season, whilst Claudio Bravo wasn’t in place before the season started. The season previously, Kevin de Bruyne was signed in August just a day before the deadline. This time, although there still could be business right up until the window shuts, it might well be that City have the majority of their shopping done before the window even opens.
The last time City did their biggest business early – when Fernandinho and Jesus Navas were both signed before mid-June in 2013 – Manuel Pellegrini went on to win the title in his first season at the club.
It’s not about omens or superstitions though. In the end, the significance appears in the very thing that Pep Guardiola has found himself complaining about for most of the season: time on the training pitch.
Perhaps the biggest shock that the Catalan received upon his arrival in England wasn’t so much the hectic fixture schedule itself, but the implications it had for his team’s training routine. It should have come as no surprise that there are plenty of games in England – there’s an extra cup competition, for a start – but perhaps the amount of time needed to prepare for games, and the lack of time to train as a team on tactics, attacking movements and passing angles probably came as something of a surprise. For a manager whose team plays with such precise movements, that’s an important factor, and something he’ll need to factor in this season.
So in many ways, it’s not the signings themselves but the timing of them that bodes so well for City.
For a team that is already well-stocked with fabulous footballers, it almost seems greedy for City to snap up Bernardo Silva or another attacker like Sanchez. And yet, during his Bayern Munich days, Guardiola went over 100 games without naming an unchanged XI, and so it makes sense that he’d want to rotate at City, too. And if you’re going to do that, why not ask the board to make sure that the players you’re rotating are the best they possibly can be.
But that, too, needs time. Players have to be comfortable with each other, and they need to form an understanding that can only be created by time together on the training pitch. City’s early business will help with that, but it will also bring that excuse off the table.
We may only be a few days past the final game of the Premier League season, and given the Champions League final hasn’t even happened yet, the season is yet to officially end, but already Manchester City are looking slick and prepared.
Other clubs might just be about to panic, too. And that could well be the most significant part: how will Chelsea and Manchester United respond?