Manchester City fans could see an unprecedented overhaul next summer, with SEVEN members of the first-team squad out of contract and new deals nowhere in sight. So who will stay? Who will go?
Goalkeeper Willy Caballero could yet get a stay of execution unless Pep Guardiola buys a more suitable reserve shot-stopper, or decides to promote highly-rated England youth international Angus Gunn further up the pecking order. A return for Joe Hart appears to be out of the question at this point.
There are serious questions about the futures of City’s full-backs. Right-back duo Pablo Zabaleta and Bacary Sagna are both out of contract next year, while left-back Gaël Clichy, whose performances have sharply declined this season, is in the same situation. With Aleksandar Kolarov also not safe, we could see serious changes in the full-back positions. Either Zaba or Sagna could be given a one-year deal if Pep feels three or four new full-backs is too much for one summer, but these positions are a serious weakness in the current squad that are being regularly exploited by smart coaches.
City’s two most influental central midfielders of recent years, Yaya Touré and Fernandinho, are also soon to be out of contract. Despite a successful return to action, Touré would have to do a lot to convince club chiefs and Guardiola for a new deal after the mess involving his agent Dimitri Seluk. Pep may use this opportunity to bring in a young midfielder, with William Carvalho and Julian Weigl both linked recently.
Of the seven players hoping for contract extensions, Fernandinho is the most certain to be handed one, having played almost every game he has been available for this season. Guardiola has also made it clear that he is a big fan of the 31-year-old. I’d expect an announcement this month or next that the Seleção Brasileira star will spend the next few years at City. He seems well preserved after years of playing in the Ukrainian league and fit enough to perform well into his 30s.
The last player who could be available for free next summer is Spanish winger Jesús Navas, who continues to feature regularly, with mixed results. He has been persistently linked with a return to former club Sevilla and that appears more realistic than a new City contract. Turkish side Fenerbahce have also been mentioned, but past comments by World Cup winner indicate he only has eyes on a return to Andalusia.
What do all seven of these names have in common? They’re over the age of 30 and with City having one of the oldest squads in the league – something Txiki Begiristain has been working to change lately – there is an opportunity to get high-earning veterans off the books next summer and replace them with fresh legs. This would lead to a more energetic Manchester City squad in the 2017-18 campaign, better equipped to play the intense pressing game.
It could also lead to some great bargains for clubs across Europe. Though these players may not all be of Pep Guardiola’s required standard, all are still capable of playing in Europe’s top five leagues. Italians love a bargain in particular, and Serie A clubs may be licking their lips at the potential of snapping up any of these players for free.