Saturday 10 December 2016

Man City chiefs arrange meeting as Pep Guardiola demands defensive reinforcement

James Ducker

Published 25/11/2016 | 09:00

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola

Manchester City's hierarchy will hold a board meeting in Abu Dhabi early next week when Pep Guardiola's concerns over his dwindling options at centre-half are expected to figure prominently in the discussions.

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Khaldoon al-Mubarak, the City chairman, chief executive Ferran Soriano, director of football Txiki Begiristain and other prominent club executives will convene in the gulf state on Monday for detailed talks as they accelerate plans for the new year.

Vincent Kompany has been ruled out for the rest of the year with medial ligament damage to his right knee as the City captain's injury nightmare took another turn for the worse, a scenario that leaves Guardiola with only two fit, recognised central defenders in John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi going into a crucial phase of the season.

Stones joined City in a £47.5 million deal from Everton last summer but Guardiola was rebuffed in his efforts to sign a second centre-back when Aymeric Laporte turned down the chance to move to the Etihad Stadium in order to stay at Athletic Bilbao, with whom he signed a new long-term contract.

There was also interest in Italy defender Leonardo Bonucci but Juventus's £50 million price tag was far beyond what City were willing to pay for the 29-year-old. 

With no recall clause on Belgium defender Jason Denayer's season long loan arrangement with Sunderland, City are likely to explore the option of signing a new centre half in January but there is an acceptance that finding a player with the quality Guardiola demands in that position will be hard enough next summer let alone in the shorter winter transfer window.

Full-back Aleksandar Kolarov has been deployed on numerous occasions at centre half this season and midfielder Fernandinho has also dropped into the position, as he did at times before his sending off in City's 1-1 draw away to Borussia Monchengladbach on Wednesday night, when the club secured qualification to the Champions League knockout stage with a game to spare. 

Although Guardiola is thought to want another forward next summer to put pressure on Sergio Aguero and Kelechi Iheanacho and is also likely to be in the market for a midfielder with Yaya Toure expected to depart when his contract expires at the end of the season, unless Aleix Garcia is given a greater opportunity to stake a first team claim, remodelling the defence is a priority for the manager.

Guardiola wants more youth, pace and vibrancy in the full back positions than the ageing Pablo Zabaleta, Bacary Sagna, Gael Clichy and Kolarov can offer, and while that may involve youngster Pablo Maffeo being involved more often, at least one new full-back is expected to arrive.

City, like Barcelona, coveted Arsenal's Hector Bellerin but he has just signed a new six-and-a-half-year contract to stay in north London. 

Kompany travelled to Barcelona on Tuesday to visit Dr Ramon Cugat, the renowned orthopaedic specialist who Guardiola has brought on to City's payroll, to have his latest injury fully assessed.

The Belgium centre-half suffered knee ligament damage, the 35th injury of his City career, after falling awkwardly following a collision with goalkeeper Claudio Bravo in the 2-1 win at Crystal Palace on Saturday and is not expected to play again this year.

Kompany is now at risk of being omitted from City's Champions League 25-man squad for the knockout stages, which could pave the way for Toure being restored to the squad.

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