It’s no great secret that Manchester City thought they were well on course to sign Napoli playmaker Jorginho, only for Chelsea to emerge from the woodwork and beat them to the Italy international’s services instead amid Maurizio Sarri’s move to Stamford Bridge.
Pep Guardiola had earmarked Jorginho as the ideal successor to Fernandinho who, although a fundamental pillar of City’s record-breaking Premier League title-winning team last season, is now 33 years of age and surely doesn’t have too long left at the very top of the game.
City will feel there’s no need to rush the issue of finding an alternative, simply because Fernandinho’s still in good shape for this season and there’s always the option, if necessary, of playing Fabian Delph or Ilkay Gundogan at the base of the engine room.
But if City are to snap up another deep-lying midfielder this summer, what are the options? Football FanCast provide five suggested solutions in the form of viable alternatives to the now-Chelsea midfield maestro…
Dembele’s no spring chicken either but in terms of his ability to control that deep-lying midfield pocket, whether muscling opponents off the ball or protecting it before distributing wisely, the Tottenham midfielder is one of the best around. Furthermore, his contract in north London is due to expire next summer, making a sale in the current one increasingly likely.
A move to the Chinese Super League has been strongly suggested and joining a less demanding division is the most plausible scenario, bearing in mind Dembele’s injury problems. But if City are looking for a short-term, proven option to share game-time with Fernandinho this season, they could do a lot worse than the 80-cap Belgium international. If there’s one concern though, it’s that Dembele’s usually accompanied by a far more defensive-minded engine room partner like Victor Wanyama or Eric Dier – at City, he’ll need to do all the ugly work himself.
A rare breed of pass-master who combines excellent technique, vision and range with real tenacity – and sometimes hotheadedness – when looking to regain possession, Verratti’s got the energy and the ability to replicate the excellent job Fernandinho does in anchoring the midfield single-handedly. He does lack discipline though, both positionally and in the forcefulness of the challenges he makes, so Guardiola will have to fine-tune some aspects of the 25-year-old’s game.
That being said, Verratti is undoubtedly one of the best midfielders in the world right now and especially when his side’s in possession. In fact, only Jorginho averaged more passes per match than the Italy international last season across Europe’s five leading top flights, while he also aided the PSG cause with over two tackles per match. The key issue, however, is whether PSG would actually sell and how much it would cost to convince them to do so. Transfermarkt value Verratti at £63million, but it certainly wouldn’t be out of the question for the French champions to demand double that sum.
The Sevilla man may come across as your typical juggernaut anchorman protruding physicality over style but there’s something subtly elegant about N’Zonzi as well. He’s got a delicate touch, a good reading of the game and a strong passing game, producing an 88% accuracy in La Liga last season. Featuring in the World Cup final will no doubt have aided the France international’s confidence as well, so we could well see an even higher level of performance from him this season, and he offers a key understanding of the English game from spells with Blackburn and Stoke.
But the ultimate question is how well-suited to Guardiola’s style of play N’Zonzi actually is, and whether he’ll end up slowing City down – especially when they look to break through the middle of the park. He’s never been the quickest mover, with or without the ball, and he probably doesn’t have the legs to close down such a vast area of the pitch in the same way as Fernandinho either.
City have already been linked with Lemina and although his debut season in the Premier League with Southampton wasn’t a hugely successful one, the Gabon midfielder’s enormous potential was obvious throughout. As well as an impressive passing range and a decent eye for a spectacular long-shot, he’s got that confidence and cuteness needed in the middle of the park to drop a shoulder, jink past an opposing midfielder and really open the play up.
Southampton just didn’t seem to take advantage of that last season, although it shouldn’t be forgotten that Lemina made some very costly errors as well and was even hauled off at half time against Newcastle in March after a succession of sloppy passes lead to an eventual 3-0 defeat.
Is the 24-year-old really ready to step up to City’s level and fill Fernandinho’s shoes, or do the Premier League champions need to see a greater level of consistency from the former Marseille and Juventus man first? Considering Saints won’t sell on the cheap and Guardiola still has Fernandinho for at least another year, perhaps next summer is the time to swoop.
He’s never quite established himself as a regular starter for Real Madrid but Mateo Kovacic’s potential remains the subject of mythical prophecies – once described as a youngster as a mixture between Kaka and Clarence Seedorf. That’s a huge endorsement of the 24-year-old, especially considering he made just one start for Croatia at the World Cup, but his statistics draw up a promising picture – 1.7 dribbles per match in La Liga last season, coupled with a 94% passing accuracy.
To some extent, that’s what Guardiola seems to want from his deepest-lying midfielder, someone who can drive forward to help create space for Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva, but can also use the ball incredibly well. In terms of winning the ball back and covering ground, that’s probably where Kovavic doesn’t quite stack up with Fernandinho – he’s a good ball-winner, but not a prolific one.
It appears City have already expressed some form of interest in the Real Madrid midfielder, only to be put off by a reported £80million asking price.
So, Man City fans, who do you see as the perfect Jorginho alternative? Let us know by voting below…