With Manchester City well off the pace in the Premier League this season and their ageing squad awaiting the arrival of Europe’s top coach in Pep Guardiola, speculation is mounting as to which players could be close to the Etihad Stadium exit door.
Star midfielder Yaya Toure is one member of the squad who seems likely to be moved on as City look to freshen things up for Guardiola’s debut season.
At his marauding best, the Ivorian was nigh-on irreplaceable but over the last 18 months there has been a creeping feeling that the African’s best years are behind him.
The subsequent downturn in fortunes for his club is no coincidence. The player turns 33 in May, but he has a deal until the summer of 2017. City though, have not been forthcoming with an acceptable extension to the player or his agent, Dimitri Seluk.
The representative, who claimed substantial links to Inter Milan for his client last season, is now once again stating that he is ready to commence negotiations with potential suitors.
Guardiola has already sold Toure once and it seems history is set to repeat itself. The Catalan will be looking to overhaul his midfield and will surely deem a man approaching veteran stages surplus to requirements.
In his rampaging pomp, Toure was almost unique as a player, but here are a few men the incoming boss might consider to fit the bill.
The most imposing young midfielder available, Pogba is as close as it is possible to get to a Toure in his prime.
At the moment he seems to be Europe’s marquee midfield attraction and a strong Euro 2016 with France will only push his stock higher.
Frighteningly the 23-year-old is still improving, but already fits the bill perfectly. Powerful, strong, athletic and with control that belies his intimidating physique, the young Frenchman is sure to be a big hit in whichever league he ends up in next.
There is also the added bonus for City fans that Pogba is a youth product of arch rivals United.
The main stumbling block will be current employers Juventus, who tied the player down with a bumper deal in 2014. Numerous reports suggest that Pogba’s price is upwards of £75m, and City are one of only a handful of clubs that could afford him.
The attraction of Guardiola strengthens their hand, but they need to secure Champions League football for next term before even considering an approach.
Looking closer to home could see City turn to Merseyside.
Henderson looks set to be the future of Liverpool both as a captain and midfield dynamo. It is just possible though, that City could turn his head with bumper wages and a guarantee of Champions League football – something his current side look unable to offer for next season at least.
The player is only one year into his current deal and while he has had his injury problems of late, he looks set to be a Premier League star for years to come and would represent a sound investment.
Liverpool would be loath to let such a crucial building block depart, especially to a domestic rival, but if Henderson was identified as a target they might not be able to reject the millions from down the road.
The 25-year-old has developed into an all-round midfielder who contributes at both ends of the pitch and his energy would revitalise City. The England man would be a perfect fit at Eastlands but his circumstances make him an ultimately unlikely signing.
Guardiola is bound to be linked continuously to his former players, both those from his Barcelona days and his current Bayern Munich outfit.
A pursuit of Vidal though would make almost perfect sense if a replacement for Toure is required. The Chilean only joined the German champions from Juventus last summer but has featured heavily under Guardiola this term.
The 28-year-old is regarded as one of the most complete midfielders on the planet given his ability to influence games both in attack and defence.
Vidal is player in his prime and would not be an easy acquisition, while Bayern are far from being in desperate need to sell and would command a huge fee.
Few engine-room components are as well-oiled as Vidal though and if Pep identifies him as a target then City’s billionaire owners are unlikely to baulk at any price tag.
A combative but skilful playmaker with the desire to get box-to-box, Vidal would surely be a hit in England.