The summer transfer window can be a frustrating experience for football fans. You hear your club is about to sign such-and-such a player, only to learn they were never even interested. Deals collapse or become drawn out, with F5 keys worldwide taking a battering as you wait desperately for the breakthrough. Last summer, Kevin De Bruyne told an audience he was staying at Wolfsburg, sending City fans on social media into a meltdown. Hours later, it was revealed that he had been ‘tricked’ and something had been lost in translation. You know the rest.
So far this summer, City have tied up deals for İlkay Gündoğan and Nolito without much stress, and have added the exciting Oleksandr Zinchenko to the ranks. Marlos Moreno is soon to follow, with the scouting system we’ve been told so much about starting to pay off as Zinchenko and Moreno are seriously exciting young talents. But there is a state of confusion over many positions and transfers, with more mixed reports than I can previously remember seeing. While the likes of Manchester United are happy to share their transfer plans to the world every year, City hold their cards very close to their chest, making fans reliant on the media for their transfer fix.
Let’s start with the goalkeeper position. Right now, we’re in the process of signing three goalkeepers, including two from Barcelona. But we aren’t really. Are we even in for one? Ter Stegen, who we were told by the Mail on Sunday that Barcelona had agreed to sell to City, has now been informed by Barca that he’ll be number one. This means Claudio Bravo is joining City, right? Mundo Deportivo has information from his entourage that City have officially contacted Barca over a deal for the 33-year-old. This all seems to make sense, and then Jamie Jackson tells us in The Guardian that City have no interest whatsoever in signing Bravo. None.
Though we remain none the wiser on which (if either) Barcelona ‘keeper we’re signing, Gerónimo Rulli does appear to be joining. He’ll be joining City, leaving City on loan, leaving City permanently, then possibly returning to City in a couple of years for double what we paid for him.
At centre-back, we have what looks like a nice straightforward deal. John Stones has told Everton he wants to join City, and unlike last summer they aren’t going to stand in his way. This all seems far too easy, so it would not be surprising if it turns into a painfully drawn out negotiation over his transfer fee. The British press have been consistent for months in saying that City want TWO centre-halves this summer (the failure to sign Aymeric Laporte, while simultaneously being interested in Stones, being evidence of this), and almost every good source in football journalism has reported that Juventus rejected a bid for Leonardo Bonucci. In the last couple of days, this has gone very quiet, with nothing but regurgitated ‘he could renew… or could leave’ stories in Italy. Gazzetta, today, suggested that City have given up on Bonucci because they have opened talks for Stones – but we’ve been told all summer that City want two new centre-backs, so Gazzetta just seem to be making an assumption. Oh, and The Sun have thrown a new name into the mix: Lucas Hernández of Atlético Madrid.
The full-back positions are causing the most stress and panic among City fans on social media. Almost all Blues believe there is a pressing need to freshen up our stagnant left-back and right-back positions, but things are developing slowly. At left-back, we’ve been told for weeks that Aleksandar Kolarov is heading to Beşiktaş, and we’ve been informed by the British and Turkish press on more than one occasion that it’s a day or two away from happening. That times passes and all we see are photos of Kolarov, his hair a shade greyer every day, in training. Beşiktaş’ president was coy today when asked about the Serb, suggesting nothing is imminent. If Aleks does go, Ricardo Rodríguez has been rumoured as a replacement, but they have been tenuous links at best. A promotion for Angeliño was mooted by SPORT yesterday, but it’s unclear if he is ready yet after experiencing some defensive difficulties while on loan in New York. Zinchenko is said to be versatile, so could also be a possibility.
At right-back, we’re signing Bruno Peres. Everyone in Italy from Tuttosport to Beppe at the local fruit market is sure of it. He’s missed training and may not be on the team bus when they go to a training camp tomorrow. It all adds up – he’s on his way to Manchester City… except he isn’t, because City themselves have briefed the press with the ‘No interest. None. Nope.’ line we’re so used to. He is/was/is supposed to replace Zabaleta, who was on the verge of joining Roma. Hours away, we were told. A week or two later and that deal appears to have dried up. So, basically, we have no real idea what is going on at right-back and also no idea who will replace Kolarov on the other side if he goes. For all we know, we could start next season with two new full-backs or the same group of 30-somethings we’re so familiar with.
Central midfield is where many expected Guardiola to go crazy. Pep loves a midfielder, you can never have too many in his mind. We’ve signed Gündoğan, who could be the buy of the summer, but keeping in mind he won’t be fit to start the season, as it stands we go into the 2016-17 campaign with the same group of four that ended the last one – Yaya, Fernandinho, Fernando and Delph. Good players, but this lot were even overrun by mid-table midfields last season in what is becoming an increasingly competitive league. Never underestimate Guardiola’s ability to improve players, but most expected at least two high-level central midfielders to arrive. We have one in, but there are no indications whatsoever that a second is to follow. Toni Kroos is a name commonly linked, but Real Madrid have ended their interest in Paul Pogba, so good luck getting him. Pep’s favourite Thiago is another spoken of, but those links have yet to amount to anything. Never rule out Pep doing what he does so well, and converting a player, perhaps David Silva in a deeper role for example.
Further forward, we’re trying to sign Leroy Sané and have been expecting his decision since 1996. It feels that way, at least. Sané was supposed to decide on Schalke, City or Bayern during Euro 2016, but his club couldn’t get an answer. That competition is over and he is probably chilling on a boat in the Bahamas, but there is still no clarification on what he plans to do. Schalke’s sporting director has insisted in the last day or so that Sané hasn’t told them he wants to leave. This looked like it was going to be one of the most straightforward deals, but Leroy can’t seem to decide and even his own club admit they’re still clueless.
It doesn’t end there. According to James Ducker of the Telegraph, City are in the market for a striker. Pep Guardiola is a genius, but turning Wilfried Bony into the new Robert Lewandowski may be beyond even his abilities, and the Ivorian is being linked with a move to Galatasaray. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was the name on everyone’s lips, but even the great Di Marzio, European football’s transfer oracle, got that one horribly wrong by claiming City and Dortmund were in advanced talks. That rumour, which had City fans on social media more excited than I’ve seen them for a player in a long time, died a slow, painful death. People were waiting for the resurrection, but it never came, and SPORT BILD report today that there’s no chance of him leaving. So who could the mystery striker be? Perhaps City see Sané as a striker in the making? Or could they make a surprise move for someone else?
There are more questions than answers at the moment. Chances are that City have a strategy and know exactly what they’re doing, but we’re fans and it’s our job to fret and worry. This could be a long summer, but hopefully by the end of it we have a stronger, younger, hungrier squad than before…