5 realistic signings who could genuinely improve Manchester City... and 5 players to avoid
£448m. That’s the preposterous amount Pep Guardiola has spent since assuming the Manchester City controls in July 2016. Plus, he inherited a squad containing Kevin De Bruyne (£54.5m), Raheem Sterling (£49m), Sergio Aguero (£35m), Nicolas Otamendi (£33m), Fernandinho (£30m) and David Silva (£24m) – all mainstays of his first-choice XI.
That outlay has City on the cusp of wrestling the records from Chelsea for most points (95 in 2004/05) and goals (103 in 2009/10) in a Premier League season. Yet such a splurge demands more – specifically Champions League glory – and the Citizens were humbled 5-1 on aggregate by Liverpool in this year’s quarter-finals.
So how can Pep improve such a vaunted playing staff? These are five realistic signings that would make City the best team on the planet, the players those new arrivals might push out – and five reported targets they should avoid.
It's looking increasingly likely that Alderweireld will be leaving Tottenham this summer. The Belgian is Spurs' best defender, and comfortably among the finest in the Premier League, but contract talks between player and club broke down at the beginning of the year and don't look like ending amicably. Understandably, Alderweireld wants a healthy increase on his £50k-per-week salary in north London, and knows he'd get it elsewhere at one of Europe's top clubs.
Spurs have the option of extending his current deal by a year to 2020, but that would then activate a buyout clause of £25m in his contract which means he could leave for that knockdown price if another club offers it before the final two weeks of the 2019 summer window. Time to cash in this summer, then? Most likely.
Alderweireld ticks plenty of boxes for Guardiola: he's proven in the Premier League, has improved under a like-minded manager in Mauricio Pochettino, and is seemingly as adept with his feet as he is defensively.
City, for all the possession they’ve enjoyed this term, have conceded too many goals. They need a defender who can defend – and is there anyone better at that than Azpilicueta?
“He’s as near to perfect as possible when it comes to defending – he's immaculate," said Gary Neville of the former Marseille man. Mo Salah has called the Spaniard “the toughest player to get past I’ve ever come up against”.
Azpilicueta, who's surprisingly good in the air considering his height (5ft 10in), can play centre-back in a two or as part of a three, or either side as a full-back. The 28-year-old’s ability on the ball is a bonus – a sizeable one given Guardiola’s passing strategy – and he would be a sizeable upgrade on Vincent Kompany, who isn't the force he once was.
Tottenham lost Kyle Walker nine months ago when they’d just finished eight points clear of third-placed City and secured Champions League football. Things could get uncomfortable for Chelsea if Guardiola starts rattling the Stamford Bridge gates.
Alaba should be high on Manchester City’s wanted list, for multiple reasons. Many players get saluted as versatile, but there’s a difference between being able to get by in different positions and excelling in them. “He seems to have played everywhere except goalkeeper,” said Jupp Heynckes of his Bayern Munich pupil, who has shone brightest as a left-wing-back, defensive midfielder and attacking midfielder (where he performs for Austria).
City wouldn't mind another top-class left-wing-back to compete with Benjamin Mendy, and are short of central midfielders (consider that Yaya Toure will leave this summer too). Guardiola was rich in his praise for Alaba while in charge at Bayern, and his system at the Etihad would be ideal for a 25-year-old renowned for his superb control, passing and speed.
While Kevin De Bruyne reigns supreme when it comes to right-footed free-kicks, City would be getting one of the best left-footed set-piece takers on the planet.