The coming transfer window could be one of the most important in Manchester City’s post-Sheik-takeover history.
Indeed, the Eastlands outfit are welcoming a new manager in Pep Guardiola who likes a very particular type of player, namely of the diminutive and technical variety, so a squad overhaul seems largely inevitable this summer.
Especially considering their squad has the oldest average age in the league – 29.4 years – and despite claiming two Premier League titles in the last four years, just hasn’t dominated the division in the manner you’d expect considering how much it cost to assemble.
So it appears Pep Guardiola’s first job as Manchester City boss (apart from signing Ilkay Gundogan) will be to administer a cull of the players currently at his disposal.
A few big names will undoubtedly still be in his plans – such as Sergio Aguero, David Silva, Kevin de Bruyne and Vincent Kompany – but the rest of the squad could be swiftly moved on.
And with that in mind, we’ve created this transfer-bound team, categorising those who could leave the Etihad Stadium during the transfer window in a select Xi format.
Rumour has it Pep Guardiola isn’t entirely convinced by Joe Hart – undoubtedly a top goalkeeper yet inconsistent with his feet and worryingly prone to the occasional howler. The Citizens would certainly fetch a decent sum for the England No.1 with some sources speculating as much as £40million, but it’s unlikely he’ll be allowed to leave the Etihad without a genuinely world-class replacement lined up first.
Pablo Zabaleta has been a fantastic servant to Manchester City but at 31 years of age, the Argentina international isn’t the rip-roaring right-back he once was following a spate of injury problems. He’s about to enter the final year of his contract and the Citizens need a major shake-up on both defensive flanks this summer, so logic suggests the 300-game veteran will be moved on. Of course, fellow No.2 Bacary Sagna finds himself in a similar boat – but Zabaleta has already hinted he’ll leave this summer.
Barring a selection of strong displays as Manchester City claimed the 2013/14 Premier League title, Martin Demichelis has only been a recurring liability at the heart of defence. The Argentina international was exposed on countless occasions last season and now aged 35, it would be a massive shock if Pep Guardiola decided to hand him a new contract – with his current terms due to expire at the end of June. Rumour has it the veteran defender is eyeing a return to former club Malaga.
Eliaquim Mangala has never come close to justifying his £32million price-tag since moving to Manchester City two summers ago and although he possesses all the traits to become an exceptional left-sided centre-back, he still seems a long way off reaching such status. Likewise, the France international’s biggest weaknesses are in possession – a real no-no for Pep Guardiola’s tiki-taka philosophy. With countryman Aymeric Laporte set to arrive from Athletic Bilbao, City are almost certain to cut their losses on Mangala.
A similar story to Pablo Zabaleta, although Aleksandar Kolarov has served City well, his lack of pace has become increasingly problematic over the last 18 months or so – especially when lined up alongside the aforementioned Eliaquim Mangala. The Serbian international still offers top quality from dead ball situations and overall, is probably as good a fit for Guardiola’s style of play as fellow left-back Gael Clichy. But he’s now the wrong side of 30 and into the final two years of his Etihad contract, so even if Kolarov survives next season, he’ll almost certainly be moved on in summer 2017.
City’s midfield is crying out for a Sergio Busquets type figure and Fernando could provide a similar kind of service with a bit of direction from Pep Guardiola. But the Brazilian enforcer is nothing more than a squad player and with several engine room additions arriving this summer, it’s unlikely the Citizens will put up much of a fight if a decent offer comes in.
Manchester City’s new manager likes his speedy wingers but Jesus Navas just doesn’t offer the level of quality you’d expect from a Pep Guardiola side. Whilst there is sometimes a tactical advantage to one-trick ponies, the Spaniard’s policy of running to the byline and drilling crosses across goal simply isn’t productive enough and has proved far too basic against heavyweight opposition. A Manuel Pellegrini signing who is now into the final twelve months of his contract, we’d place a decent bet on Navas leaving this summer.
Even if you don’t necessarily prescribe to the theory that Pep Guardiola will sell Yaya Toure this summer simply because he did at Barcelona, logic suggests the Ivory Coast international has played his last game for the Citizens. After all, the 33-year-old is on monolithic wages and there has been a notable decline to his game in recent seasons, managing just 20 goals over the last two campaigns compared to 24 during 2013/14 alone. Likewise, outspoken agent Dimitri Seluk makes Toure simply more trouble than he’s worth and with his contract into its final year, the timing feels right for the midfielder to try a new challenge. Inter Milan has been mooted as his next destination by the tabloids.
Fabian Delph joined the Etihad ranks only last summer but he was always purchased primarily for home-grown quota purposes and hasn’t exactly silenced his doubters at City, managing just eight Premier League starts (alongside nine substitute outings) amid a raft of recurring injury problems. More energy and grit over style and technique, the 26-year-old doesn’t fit Guardiola’s usual profile of midfielder and having purchased him for just £7million, Delph is likely worth more to City in the transfer market than on the pitch.
Samir Nasri is far more in line with Pep Guardiola’s usual player preference as an incredibly technical and intelligent midfielder who creates chances for fun. But of course, that depends on the Frenchman being fully fit and over the last two seasons he’s managed just 31 Premier League appearances – including a lowly seven during 2015/16. Now 28 years of age, it feels like a move is necessary to revive the Arsenal midfielder’s somewhat stuttering career. But purely due to his compatibility with the Guardiola philosophy – not to mention three years remaining on his current contract – Nasri may get a stay of execution until next summer.
Wilfried Bony simply hasn’t delivered since signing for the Citizens 18 months ago, going on to claim just six goals in 36 Premier League appearances. The Ivory Coast striker just can’t find his touch in front of goal – almost as if he’s struggling to cope with the pressure of playing at the Etihad – and in terms of style, isn’t the kind of forward Guardiola usually goes for. Likewise, having proved clinically potent at Swansea City, I’m sure a number of Premier League clubs would be interested in taking him off City’s hands this summer.