Thursday 22 March 2018

City plan spending spree to play in style of Guardiola

Everton defender John Stones, in action against Manchester City last week, is at the top of the shopping list for the Etihad club. Photo: Reuters
Everton defender John Stones, in action against Manchester City last week, is at the top of the shopping list for the Etihad club. Photo: Reuters

Matt Law

Manchester City are planning an expensive summer overhaul to build a squad capable of playing the Pep Guardiola way, with Eliaquim Mangala and Wilfried Bony poised to be two of the major casualties.

Guardiola is expected to take over from Manuel Pellegrini as manager at City during the summer, despite suggesting he could wait two years to take a job in the Premier League. City remain confident they can land Guardiola this year and are already plotting major end-of-season transfer moves to make sure the squad will suit his style of management.

They are ready to bid against Manchester United, Chelsea and Guardiola's former club Barcelona for Everton central defender John Stones, and ideally want to add a new forward, a central midfielder and new wide players - either at full-back or on the wing.

There have been suggestions that Guardiola is already having an input in City's summer transfer plans and it certainly appears the club's overhaul is very much being designed with the Bayern Munich manager in mind.

City want a more versatile forward to take over from Bony to support Sergio Aguero. Thomas Muller would appear to fit the brief perfectly, but the German has insisted he will not follow Guardiola to City, which leaves director of football Txiki Begiristain looking at other options at home and abroad.

The prospect of striking an incredible deal to sign Lionel Messi is still rated as improbable, if not impossible, and, despite denials, City are among the clubs who have taken an interest in Leicester's Jamie Vardy.

Bony was signed only last January for £28m from Swansea City, but the Ivory Coast international will be allowed to leave at the end of the season with the club hoping to recoup around £20m. Swansea have already been linked with a move to re-sign Bony, but Everton could look at the 27-year-old if they lose Romelu Lukaku, while the player also has admirers abroad.

City have again struggled to cope with losing captain Vincent Kompany to injury this season, with Mangala failing to prove that he will justify his £32m price tag.

Mangala was almost loaned to Valencia as part of the deal to sign Nicolas Otamendi last summer, but an impressive performance against Chelsea altered that plan.


Having been given a second chance, Mangala has not maintained the form he displayed against Chelsea and the 24-year-old's appalling performance against title rivals Arsenal just before Christmas appears to have sealed his fate.

The contract of 35-year-old Martin Demichelis is due to expire, which will also help to make space for a big new arrival in the centre of defence.

Guardiola is understood to be a fan of Aymeric Laporte, who has a £37m release clause in his Athletic Bilbao contract, while City are among the clubs ready to make a bid for Stones.

England international Stones helped Everton keep a clean sheet at City on Wednesday and will cost at least £40m after the club turned down a number of bids from Chelsea last summer. United and Chelsea are already lining up moves for Stones at the end of this season, while Barcelona have been watching the 21-year-old for some time.

Other than simply looking at the players they want to sign and are willing to sell, City are considering the changes they will have to make to alter their style of play to suit the Guardiola blueprint.

The wide areas are a cause for concern, as City do not have full-backs capable of combining their defensive duties with raiding up the flanks, while insiders believe they do not get enough from Jesus Navas or Samir Nasri. It is likely at least one of City's current full-backs will be allowed to leave, while the club would also listen to offers for Navas and Nasri, although the Frenchman has insisted he wants to stay.

City will agonise over the future of Yaya Toure, whose agent has claimed Guardiola is overrated, and a central midfielder will be among the club's summer priorities with Borussia Dortmund's Germany international Ilkay Gundogan one of the players under consideration.

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