Tuesday 24 April 2018

Pep Guardiola spending at Man City could top £600 million as he targets three more 'big' players this summer

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola sat in the stands Action Images via Reuters/Jason Cairnduff
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola sat in the stands Action Images via Reuters/Jason Cairnduff

James Ducker

Pep Guardiola’s spending at Manchester City could top £600 million in two years as he targets three more players this summer in a bid to address successive Champions League failures and build on the club’s domestic dominance.

City crashed out of the Champions League on Tuesday night when the worst week of their season culminated in a 2-1 loss to Liverpool in the second leg of their bruising 5-1 aggregate quarter-final defeat.

It was the latest in a long line of European disappointments for Guardiola, dating back five seasons to 2014 with Bayern Munich, and City’s third defeat in seven days following the 3-0 first leg defeat to Liverpool and a 3-2 reverse against Manchester United on Saturday that denied the club the Premier League title.

Yet City’s hierarchy, who have already backed Guardiola to the tune of almost £450m since he took charge in June 2016, believe there is no cause for alarm and will continue with plans to sign a defensive midfielder, versatile forward and probably a centre-half.

Julian Weigl, of Borussia Dortmund, Shakhtar Donetsk’s Fred, Jorginho at Napoli and Jean-Michel Seri, who plays for Nice, are midfield targets, each of whom would cost around £40m or upwards.

City have a keen interest in the £90m-rated France forward Thomas Lemar, at Monaco, from whom they signed Bernardo Silva and Benjamin Mendy last summer.

Eden Hazard would be considered a dream target by Guardiola but there is thought to be an acceptance that Chelsea will not countenance the Belgium forward’s sale to the Premier League leaders at any cost and that, if he does leave Stamford Bridge this summer, it is likely to be for Real Madrid.

City tried and failed to buy £60m-rated Algeria playmaker Riyad Mahrez from Leicester City in January. A centre-half is considered less of a priority than a defensive midfielder and forward but City are continuing to monitor Toby Alderweireld’s situation at Tottenham among other defenders.

The Belgian, who, like Fred, is also attracting interest from United, is expected to leave Spurs this summer and would cost about £40m, although Tottenham would much prefer to sell him abroad if he does not sign a new contract, with Paris St-Germain an option.

Any move for a centre-half is likely to hinge over whether Guardiola decides to trust in the fitness of captain Vincent Kompany for a second successive summer. The Belgium defender’s return to fitness and good form in the final months of last season persuaded Guardiola that a central defender was less of a priority only for Kompany to miss much of this campaign due to more injuries and leave the manager short of cover for Nicolas Otamendi and John Stones.

City ended up signing French centre-half Aymeric Laporte from Athletic Bilbao for a club-record £57.1m in January, since when Kompany has returned to action again. But Guardiola must determine if he is happy to run the risk of being left with just three centre-backs if Kompany breaks down again.

Speaking last Friday, Guardiola hinted at another big summer of spending by claiming it was “impossible” to challenge for the biggest trophies, playing his brand of football, without serious investment. “It is impossible to do that, to play the way we play, the results we achieved, without top players,” he said. “And today the top players cost a lot of money.

“When you say, ‘Pep, what you have done in Barcelona or Bayern Munich, is it possible to do that without those big players?’ No, it’s impossible, so be calm.

“We need money to buy and to play in that level all the time. To achieve these results you need this investment. If not you need miracles and I am not able to do that.”

Three defeats in a week have increased the scrutiny ahead of Saturday’s visit to Tottenham. City – who will hope to avoid a fourth-successive defeat at the very least – can only secure the title this weekend if they win at Wembley and United lose at home to bottom club West Bromwich Albion the next day.

City, who have already won the League Cup, could still finish the season with an extraordinary, record-breaking 102 points. But their disappointing Champions League exit, following last season’s Round of 16 elimination to Monaco, will increase the pressure on Guardiola to deliver in the competition next season and address a troubling pattern of his teams being torn apart in 15-to-20-minute bursts.

Guardiola’s Bayern and City sides have conceded 23 goals over the course of the manager’s past five two-legged eliminations. It means Guardiola has conceded more goals in 10 ultimately-fatal Champions League knockout matches, seven of which ended in defeat, than Bayern did in the entirety of their 34-game Bundesliga campaign in 2014/15 (18 goals against) and 2015/16 (17 goals against). City have shipped just 24 goals in 32 league games this season.

Online Editors

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