In the 2018/19 season, Manchester City completed a domestic treble by winning the Premier League title, the Carabao Cup, and the FA Cup. Despite being booted out of the UEFA Champions League in the most heartbreaking of fashions in the quarterfinals by eventual runners up Tottenham Hotspur, I would say that Pep Guardiola led the club to another very successful season. This summer, Man City don’t need to do too much in the transfer market to improve the squad and make a better run at the Champions League final and another Premier League title.
First things first, there are a lot of issues in defense. Pep has built an attack minded squad, but as I’ve learned, defense wins you Champions League titles. With team captain and 11 year club veteran Vincent Kompany departing for RSC Anderlecht, City could use another center back. There is also a chance that Nicolas Otamendi, another center back, could leave due to a significant drop in play time over this past season. In the Argentine’s first 3 campaigns with the club, he registered a minimum of 30 appearances in all competitions. This year, he only managed 18. Not to mention he was a liability in Champions League, conceding a penalty and getting a red card in the first leg of the round of 16 tie against German outfit FC Schalke 04. Luckily, City won that game, and the tie, but “The General” would be better off leaving the club.
A likely candidate for this spot is 19 year old Matthijs de Ligt of Ajax. Undoubtedly the hottest defensive prospect in the world this summer, de Ligt impressed as Ajax made a miracle run to the Champions League semi finals. While he would command an incredibly hefty price tag, De Ligt has been linked with City, as well as clubs like Barcelona and Juventus. A back line of Aymeric Laporte, John Stones, and de Ligt sounds pretty solid to me.
Another position of interest is at fullback. With Benjamin Mendy unable to stay fit, Oleksandr Zinchenko has been called in to fill the void, and has done a much better job than Fabian Delph. However, City have said that they will not pursue a left back, but have been linked with young right back Joao Cancelo of Juventus. With Danilo looking likely to leave the club, the young Cancelo would be an interesting signing. However, City already have Kyle Walker, and would be paying over €50 million to have him ride the bench (Like they did Riyad Mahrez last year). I wouldn’t be opposed to the move, but only if Guardiola can find a way to give 2 world class right backs equal opportunity to play.
The most crucial spot to fill lies in the midfield. City’s midfield general Fernandinho is aging like a fine wine, and is easily City’s most crucial midfielder. However, he’s 34, and missed a few important games this season, and his presence was sorely missed. While Ilkay Gundogan filled that gap with impressive displays over the course of last season, there is also talk that he could be leaving the club soon, with his contract running down. This position is so crucial to Guardiola’s system, that they have spent a great deal of time looking for his replacement.
The most common links have been with Lyon’s Tanguy Ndombele and Atletico Madrid’s Rodri. Ndombele, like de Ligt, is the hottest prospect in his position. He has been linked with Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool, Arsenal, Juventus, and Man City to name a few. He burst onto the scene last season, and is very comfortable with the ball at his feet, which is important to a City side that dominates possession. Rodri, like Ndombele, is a young and smart midfielder, and he is already being compared to legendary Barcelona midfielder Serio Busquets, who Guardiola promoted from Barca’s B team and has now become the standard bearer for what a Guardiola holding midfielder should be. Rodri has a release clause of €70 million, and with Ndombele being linked for €80 million and more, Rodri would be not only cheaper, but I think he would fit better into Guardiola’s system.
City do need more midfield help than just the replacement to Fernandinho, but instead of spending, I think Phil Foden should be getting more playtime. Over the past year, the 19 year old City academy graduate has been integrated into the first team, making 36 appearances with seven goals, including his first in the Premier League, and three assists. Labeled the “Stockport Iniesta,” Foden should be continuing his rise through the ranks at the club.
One last point to make, as it’s a major rumor I’d like to address, Man City should NOT sign Benfica wonderkid striker Joao Felix. Felix burst onto the scene this year, and all the clubs are after his signature. Benfica have slapped a €120 million release clause on the kid, but City do not need another attacking talent.
At striker, Sergio Aguero is still firing in over 20 goals a season at 31 years old, and City signed 22 year old Brazilian striker Gabriel Jesus in January of 2017 to be his heir. The team is also clogged with talent on the wings, with the likes of Raheem Sterling, Bernardo Silva, Leroy Sane, and record City signing Riyad Mahrez all competing for playing time. Not only is Felix a risk, but there is no room for him to get consistent playing time. Guardiola already has a selection headache with his attackers, and some like Sane and Mahrez complaining about their playtime down the stretch at the end of the year, there is no room.
With these additions, and pending the result of a potential one year ban from the Champions League, City could finally make it to the final of the one trophy that eludes them, and capture it.