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Wednesday 21 March 2018

Pep Guardiola says he can't spend big in every position - as Man City agree £57m deal for defender

Athletic Bilbao's French defender Aymeric Laporte and inset (Pep Guardiola)
Athletic Bilbao's French defender Aymeric Laporte and inset (Pep Guardiola)

Paul Wilson

Pep Guardiola has said that Manchester City cannot spend big on every squad position despite the richest club in England having agreed a club-record fee for Athletic Bilbao's Aymeric Laporte.

City met Laporte's £57m (€65m)buyout clause on Friday and at 23 the centre-half represents better value than paying West Brom over the odds for the 30-year-old Jonny Evans, though Guardiola is at pains to stress that even he must work to a budget.

"When you are trying to handle four competitions and such a lot of fixtures you either have to be lucky with injuries or have 22 top players to compete," the City manager said. "And at today's prices to have 22 top players you need to find – maybe people don't believe me – money we don't have. City are not so different from other clubs. There are salaries we cannot pay. There are transfers we cannot afford. That's why academies are so important because you must find players of your own."

Guardiola is not exactly crying poverty, though it seems clear City went cool on Alexis Sánchez when it became clear his wage demands as a soon-to-be free agent might be excessive. Manchester United are thought to be paying the Chile forward more than £300,000 a week and it is not difficult to work out that bringing in a newcomer on that basis midway through a spectacularly successful season might have a disruptive effect on a previously harmonious dressing room.

José Mourinho derided City earlier in the season for spending "striker-type money" on a new set of full-backs, overlooking his own contribution to the inflationary spiral with the fees paid for Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku. At a time when even Liverpool have just spent £75m on a defender, City's biggest buy is still the £55m capture of Kevin De Bruyne three years ago.

"Maybe it will happen in the future but so far we have not spent £100m on one player, or £90m or £80m," Guardiola pointed out. "We cannot pay that right now, they tell me. That is the truth. Of course, we have spent a lot of money, but only the same as other teams. I can assure you that we are not the only team in the world that spends money. There are many others."

Guardiola, whose side visit Cardiff in the FA Cup fourth round on Sunday, recognises he could alleviate his fixture overload by taking the domestic cups less seriously — on Tuesday City reached the Carabao Cup final — though would much rather see the game introduce some streamlining of its own.

"I think most managers would like to see the Carabao Cup semi-final over one game and the FA Cup without replays," he said. "But it is not going to happen. We will carry on with replays, extra time and extra, extra time. It is a business and the show must go on. We have meetings with the big bosses at the start of each season and they listen to what the managers say, but that is all. It is not going to change."

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