Interviews

Ask the Journos: Manchester City and the transfer window

Ever since Pep Guardiola’s appointment back in February, Manchester City have been bombarded with transfer links to tens (maybe hundreds – we’ve lost count!) of players. The transfer window still hasn’t officially opened yet and it already looks set to be even more hectic than last years. Ilkay Gündoğan has already been confirmed and Aymeric Laporte’s last minute contract extension threw a spanner into City’s plans.

With Pep Guardiola taking charge in just under twelve days, we thought it’d be a good idea to find out what some journalists expect from the rest of the transfer window.

We got the latest from Miguel Delaney from ESPN, Stuart Brennan from the Manchester Evening News, Martin Blackburn from The Sun and Sam Lee from Goal.

Do you expect another midfielder to be brought in alongside Ilkay Gündoğan?

Miguel Delaney: I’m not sure actually, but at this point I would say no. Maybe more a player that can play in midfield but whose primary position is elsewhere. I think the dropping of interest in Pogba was conspicuous.

Sam Lee: I would be very surprised if not. City are keeping their cards very close to their chest with this one, however. After initially identifying Kroos and Pogba they have now moved on, but they surely can’t have moved on from the central midfield market all together.

I expect them to have something up their sleeve, even if it’s a young player like Bazoer that Guardiola has full trust in to come in and do what’s needed. There’s talk about Yaya Toure possibly staying and while I think he would like to, I can’t really see it. That is one ‘saga’ I’ve tried to stay out of, as there’s so much blister from any number of parties. But even with the rest staying, in my view City need some fresh blood in there.

Martin Blackburn: Yes – I think there’ll be one more. I’m not quite sure who though! I know they’ve backed away from Paul Pogba. Pep was a big fan of Toni Kroos at Bayern and was disappointed he was sold – but I don’t believe Real Madrid will sell him. And I don’t get the feeling Wilshere is high on the list either. There is an interest in Leroy Sane for sure – and this lad Zinchenko will probably arrive – but then spend time either with the 21s or out on loan for a year. There’s a lot of midfielders in that squad at the moment too, don’t forget. Some will be on their way – ie. Yaya and Nasri if the right offers come in. I’m told Fernando is definitely staying though, which might surprise some. Although City’s best performances last season came when the two Ferna’s were in tandem.

Stuart Brennan: If they can find the right man, but they won’t spend for the sake of it. Paul Pogba seems out of the question but if he goes to Barcelona or Real Madrid, City will be interested in who he displaces, hence the talk about Busquets, Isco and Kroos.

Do you think Pep will try and create an indigenous core at Manchester City, like he has done with his Bayern and Barcelona sides?

Miguel Delaney: Maybe not consciously try to do that but he will look to introduce youth as he has one of the best records of giving academy debuts among European managers – three a season.

Sam Lee: It’s a tricky one, this. There’s clearly the interest in Stones, but I’m not sure how many other English players can actually do what Guardiola is going to want. Look at Hart for example, who I think could be sold in the next 14 months if a big offer comes along. I don’t want to go into that too much, but it’s such a tricky situation not only because of how popular and how good he is, but also the fact he’s English. I think long-term Guardiola will build the team around players who have been brought up at the club, rather than English-born players, so the academy will be put through its paces.

Martin Blackburn: I would imagine so – but until we hear from the guy it’s hard to say. If the season started tomorrow, I would think Aguero, Silva, De Bruyne, Gundogan will all play regularly – although they’ve all had fitness issues recently. I think he’ll look forward to getting his hands on Sterling too. There’ll be more to come from him.

Our info – and it came from an impeccable source – was that they want to sign four or five players this summer. Obviously they’ve got one already. Above and beyond that, Denayer has been told he’ll almost certainly be back next season.

Until we know for sure who the other new faces are, it’s hard to know who that core might be. When he was appointed, we know he was reasonably happy with the squad he would be inheriting – although we don’t know what he made of the last three months of the season. And at his former clubs he liked to work with a relatively small squad of players – so the idea they might sign eight or nine senior players is not realistic.

Stuart Brennan: I think every coach wants that in his team, but it’s more important at City that the core comes from within the club, irrespective of nationality. As we know, top quality Englishmen are hard to find!

City have been linked intensely with a few centre-backs and been quoted extravagant figures. Why is it do you think that the center-back market has suddenly exploded?

Miguel Delaney: Because there are a premium of them! It seems notable, though, that Pep is going for ball-playing centre-backs.

Sam Lee: Because there aren’t many good ones around. The best ones and the best clubs won’t be leaving – Pique, Ramos, Boateng for example. Hummels has gone for big money because he’s another top centre-back, but at a club susceptible to being raided. That then leaves a band of promising, potentially elite, youngsters, essentially all the ones Barcelona are chasing: Stones, Laporte and Marquinhos.

Martin Blackburn: I guess City haven’t helped on that front – spending £60 odd million on a couple who’ve struggled. And then you’ve got PSG paying big for Luiz and Marquinhos recently – that’s made clubs realize they can charge what they want.

But I don’t think it’s necessarily unexpected – it’s seven years now since City paid £24 million for Joleon Lescott and 14 years since United bought Rio Ferdinand for £30 million so it’s been coming. Maybe City have just been lucky to have got such good service out of a couple of bargains in Kompany and Demichelis – until recently that is.

Stones is still possible although I think you’ll have to wait until England are out of the Euros to see if he’s coming. I know City’s top brass have been disappointed with Mangala – so I’d fear for him. He very nearly went last summer, don’t forget. Otamendi will probably get another season.

I think Kompany might just survive – but I wouldn’t put my mortgage on it if a great offer came in for him. It’s coming to the point where they’ll have to say enough is enough. Denayer has been told he’s coming back by Txiki although the final decision will lie with Guardiola. What a signing that could prove to be – effectively for nothing.

Stuart Brennan: I think the market for every position has exploded with all the money in the PL. But centre back have always been a big commodity – think Pallister, Ferdinand and Luiz, all record fees.

With Wilfried Bony expected to leave this summer, City will be left with only two senior strikers. Is that something Pep would be content with?

Miguel Delaney: No, I know he’s looking for an Aguero back-up and the type of wingers Pep generally signs can play up front too.

Sam Lee: It could be on the face of it, given the various wide players he has been able to fit into his attacking systems over the years. However, the interest in Aubameyang shows that the club want to bring in somebody else. Whether that deal happens or not, it’s clear that City don’t want to start the season with two strikers.

Martin Blackburn: With the exception of Aubameyang and Morata, I’ve not heard much about forwards at all. I think he’ll regularly play with just one up front – or one central striker and two wide attackers. Don’t forget Sterling can play as a forward too and has done plenty of times in the past. However they look light if we assume Bony will leave, so it’d be a surprise if he went into the season without addressing that by bringing another attacker in.

Stuart Brennan: I reckon so, he is not hung up on centre forwards. He wanted Aubameyang, and City may still go back if price drops, but he would be happy with Sane who is not an out and out striker (but may yet turn into one).

Manchester City’s full-back situation is precarious. Are any of the four 30+ year-old full-backs fit for purpose in a Pep Guardiola side?

Miguel Delaney: I’ve heard he is willing to make do with them for a season, as other areas are in more pressing need of enhancement, but it could be a issue next summer.

Sam Lee: I would expect Sagna and Clichy to provide the back-ups, with Zabaleta and Kolarov leaving. Denayer is one option at right-back, but there’s also interest in Bellerin. I’m sure if it was that easy, City could sell on all four full-backs this summer and start again, but obviously that would be incredibly tough for a number of reasons. So because of that, last season’s first choices will become useful rotation options. Both Sagna and Clichy can do a reliable job for another year.

Martin Blackburn: I’d expect Sagna and Clichy to stay – I think both did enough to earn an extra year at least. You heard the way Khaldoon talked about Sagna this week. I think Zaba and Kolarov might go if the right moves came up for them. I’m not sure if City would push Zaba out. He’s been great with the media but never once did he say he’d be staying – and we gave him enough chances to do it. Kolarov never talks to us but from what I hear he’d like to see out his contract and learn from Pep. I’m not sure he’ll get the chance to though. Denayer is an interesting option for right-back and I believe the interest in Bellerin is genuine. I can’t think Wenger will want to sell though – particularly not to City. We know Pep likes to blood young players and it might be at full-back that he tries to bring some through.

Stuart Brennan: Sagna was one of my players of the season, and I am still living in hope that Zabaleta just had a bad season rather than starting a decline. Kolarov has to go, and Clichy should only stay as a number two in my opinion, until something better comes through (hopefully Angelino).

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