Pep weighs up moves for Grealish and Koulibaly as club loosens purse strings
Manchester City will accelerate plans to rebuild their squad now their two-season European ban has been formally quashed as manager Pep Guardiola targets at least three new signings.
Long confident they would overturn Uefa’s suspension in the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), City have been busy formulating their transfer plans for months and are now ready to back Guardiola heavily in the market, even though the manager has yet to confirm if he will stay beyond the end of his contract next summer.
Guardiola wants a centre-half, left-back and replacement for winger Leroy Sane, who joined Bayern Munich earlier this month in a projected €60 million deal, but City could make as many as five signings, including another striker, depending on who leaves.
Guardiola will have the money from Sane’s sale to reinvest but, while the Covid-19 crisis has hit finances, not least match-day income, and necessitated a rebate to broadcasters, no Champions League football for two years could have cost the club around £200m (€220m) in TV income, prize money, gate receipts and potentially lost sponsorship.
City have avoided that threat while the sale of a £389m stake in the City Football Group empire last November to US private equity firm, Silver Lake, also provided a huge cash injection.
City will hope for clarity over Guardiola’s future as soon as possible, conscious would-be signings will want to know if the manager is staying, but there is no longer a threat of targets being put off by an absence of Champions League football or the club’s current stars considering their own futures on the back of it.
Having failed to bring in a replacement for Vincent Kompany last summer after balking at Leicester’s £85m valuation of Harry Maguire, Kalidou Koulibaly, the £75m-rated Napoli centre-half, could form the centrepiece of Guardiola’s plans to reconstruct his defence.
City trail Liverpool by 21 points and have lost nine of their 35 league matches, conceding 34 goals in the process – 11 more than last season when they won the title by a point from their Merseyside rivals.
City have looked in the past at the Leicester and England left-back, Ben Chilwell, who is a leading target for Chelsea manager Frank Lampard.
With Guardiola having grown frustrated by Benjamin Mendy’s fitness issues and lapses in concentration and Oleksandr Zinchenko only considered back-up, Guardiola wants a left-back. They are likely to maintain an interest in Chilwell knowing it would also keep the price high for Chelsea.
Sane’s departure for Bayern has left City looking at their options out wide and David Silva’s impending exit after a decade at the club will also leave a hole in midfield. Fernandinho, now 35 and in the final year of his contract, will also need replacing in time. Aston Villa playmaker Jack Grealish, who would also fit the home-grown criteria, and Atletico Madrid’s Saul Niguez, have admirers at City but it is unclear how concrete interest is in either player.
Despite Riyad Mahrez becoming the fifth City player to hit double figures for goals in the league this season after scoring in the recent 5-0 rout of Newcastle, Guardiola could also seek to bolster his attack.
With Sergio Aguero, 32, in the final year of his contract and uncertain to play again this season following knee surgery, City are on the look-out for a striker. Beyond that, City may have to look for another right-back to challenge Kyle Walker if Joao Cancelo was to leave. The Portugal right-back has struggled to adapt following his move from Juventus