Wednesday 17 October 2018

Man City's fears over Aguero may delay move for Sanchez

Manchester City are sensitive to how the potential arrival of Alexis Sanchez would be viewed by star players such as Sergio Aguero. Photo: Getty Images
Manchester City are sensitive to how the potential arrival of Alexis Sanchez would be viewed by star players such as Sergio Aguero. Photo: Getty Images

James Ducker

Manchester City have already mapped out their transfer plans for the next 18 months and have prioritised signing a defensive midfielder and centre-half, as well as striker Alexis Sanchez, as they target serial success under Pep Guardiola.

City will move for Sanchez in next month's transfer window only if circumstances demand it. They would prefer to wait until the summer to sign the Arsenal player, with Guardiola worried about unsettling the attacking balance in his team and dressing-room harmony in pursuit of the Premier League title.

There are thought to be particular concerns about how Sergio Aguero would react if Sanchez arrived in mid-season and, beyond that and the wider harmony of the group, Guardiola believes the form of his front players, especially Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane, has reduced the need for an imminent move. City are 11 points clear at the top of the table.

Txiki Begiristain, City's director of football, held a planning meeting with chief executive Ferran Soriano and chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak last Friday, at which they ironed out their transfer strategy for the next 18 months. City are refusing to entertain any quick, four or five-month fixes and are determined to guard against a situation such as last summer, when they lost four full-backs in one go.

If City do any business next month, it is likely to focus on the recruitment of a central defender, with Southampton's Virgil van Dijk a preferred target ahead of West Brom's Jonny Evans and Inigo Martinez of Real Sociedad.

City have been in formal contact with Southampton. It is thought Southampton are more open to selling the Holland defender next month than they were in the summer, but their £70 million price tag is considered prohibitive, despite interest from Chelsea and Liverpool.

City tried and failed with a £21m bid for Evans in August, but while they have not discounted another move they have yet to re-establish contact with West Brom. Evans is also wanted by Arsenal.

Any recruit would, however, be third choice behind Nicolas Otamendi and John Stones as things stand.

City have no plans to sign another left-back, though, as Guardiola is believed to be satisfied by the progress made by Fabian Delph and is also hopeful of having Benjamin Mendy back from injury in April or May. Danilo and Oleksandr Zinchenko can also cover that position.

Reliant

However, City's power brokers do consider the purchase of a defensive midfielder a necessity next summer, given Yaya Toure is expected to leave when his contract expires and Guardiola is overly reliant on 32-year-old Fernandinho.

Julian Weigl, the 22-year-old Borussia Dortmund and Germany midfielder has been scouted for that role. Fernandinho, out of contract in the summer, will be given a new deal, but Guardiola wants more competition for the Brazilian.

Guardiola's eagerness to sign Sanchez remains strong, despite City pulling back from their initial plans to move for the player next month following the collapse of a £60m bid in August.

City are confident that the 29-year-old's desire to move to the Etihad Stadium is strong enough that they can take a calculated gamble by waiting until his contract expires in June.

City could still face a predicament then with Aguero, but would prefer to deal with any potential fallout in the summer.

It is understood City have no plans to sell Aguero and will not make any attempt to force out a player they regard as a club legend.

Aguero is the favourite player of Guardiola's son, Marius, and the City manager had always made it his intention to improve the Argentine's all-round game, but their relationship has been strained.

Only last Saturday, Aguero threw down his gloves in frustration and refused to look at Guardiola after being substituted for Gabriel Jesus in City's 4-1 win over Tottenham.

Guardiola believes Aguero has benefited from the competition provided by Jesus' arrival last January, but has already admitted he finds it difficult to accommodate both players in his starting line-up and that issue will become more complicated if Sanchez joins.

© Daily Telegraph, London

Telegraph.co.uk

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