Man City’s summer recruitment drive needs to start with the right manager
Chelsea have Jose Mourinho, Arsenal have Arsene Wenger and Liverpool have Brendan Rodgers. Three managers who belong to their respective clubs. Their being there makes sense.
Each manager has a specific footballing blueprint, and know the players who will fit into it. This helps them in the transfer market; it gives them focus. Wenger is considered in his approach, does his due diligence, and absolutely will not sign a player just for the sake of it, regardless of whether they are a big name.
Manchester City, long-term, seem to have everything in place up to a certain level. A top class centre of excellence, world-renowned training facilities and a state-of-the-art stadium. Even their commercial sponsors are members of the elite.
The problem appears to lie in who they have in charge of their squad. This has been recurrent ever since Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan bought the club. Granted, they have made an impact domestically under both Roberto Mancini and Manuel Pellegrini, though in Europe they need to step up.
In the last three years, City have seen Premier League rivals Chelsea come from nowhere to win the Champions League, while Atletico Madrid, despite limited resources, have become a force to be reckoned with, reaching the final last season.
With Pellegrini, what you see is what you get. He holds a degree in structural engineering, so the process of building things to last, is programmed in his psyche. The processes and principles should be transferable to any walk of life. After all, engineering is logical. It works.
The 61-year-old’s record at Man City leaves little to argue with. In his first season in charge, the studious Chilean delivered a Premier League title, plus the Capital One Cup. This campaign, his team trail a Chelsea side by six points at the top of the table, who also have a game in hand.
A barrier for the second season running, under his command, is that City have been naive in the Champions League, against a Barcelona side, who have arguably three of the best five players in world football. Although they trail Barca 2-1 going into the second leg at the Nou Camp, against a side who rarely concede possession, progressing through to the quarter-finals is a tough ask.
It will hardly be surprising if they don’t go further in the competition this campaign. However, questions need to be asked, and analysis undertaken as to why. Does it come back to player recruitment, and Pellegrini’s judgement of players who can perform both in Europe and the Premier League consistently?
His signings – Jesus Navas, Fernando, Fernandinho, Alvaro Negredo, Stevan Jovetic, Eliaqium Mangala and Martin Demichellis – have failed to prove their worth as world beaters. Those players are part of the £327m lavished on incomings since 2011, not counting new recruit Wilfried Bony. In the same period, Bayern Munich have spent £206m to make nine changes to their side, and have seen a return of two Bundesliga titles, two German cups, and a Champions League triumph.
They can also boast Mario Gotze, Javi Martinez, Thiago Alcântara, Xabi Alonso, Mehdi Benatia, Sebastian Rode and Robert Lewandowski as key signings. The latter, along with ex-Real Madrid star being free transfers.
Depending on the priorities of the City high-ups; consistent Champions League trophies no doubt one of them, Pellegrini may find himself, probably rather harshly, out of work in the summer, if he fails to convince executives.
Guardiola would be high on the list, having, like Mourinho at Chelsea, got it right at every club he has been at so far. Granted the Portuguese boss wasn’t able to deliver European success at Real Madrid, though the way in which he did with Porto and Inter Milan, was something which deserves recognition. Guardiola is still yet to do so with Bayern, and should the Spaniard be installed as City boss, it would make for an intriguing duel with Mourinho, as each chase Champions League victories with three different clubs.
No doubt Guardiola, like Mourinho has with Chelsea, will have a clear idea of which players can deliver success at City, in a blueprint which he feels would suit. However, Pellegrini remains in charge for now, and it is arguably in his transfer strategy where he has failed.
Up front Sergio Aguero, 13/8 with Coral to be Premier League top scorer, is a player who a team should be built around. The Argentina international is world class, and deserves service in the same bracket. Bony definitely has potential, and Edin Dzeko can do a job, though he could be tempted by another club in the summer, not least former club Wolfsburg, who are building a squad to challenge Bayern Munich.
Any overtures from them though, could mean that City want Kevin De Bruyne in exchange. The talented attacking midfielder has been on top of his game this season, contributing 14 goals and 23 assists in 37 appearances across all competitions.
Belgium international De Bruyne, who only secured a move to Die Wolfe last summer from Chelsea, is said to be one of the most in-demand properties in football, and he is exactly the type of footballer City need.
A signing of his calibre would reflect the days of Aguero and Silva joining the club, and highlight their ambition once more. Bringing just one world class recruit in wouldn’t be enough, though. City need a side who can blow teams away in Europe, just like Barcelona and Bayern Munich.
Raiding the Bundesliga presents huge possibilities and with Bayer Leverkusen’s dynamic, deep-lying midfielder Lars Bender said to be easier to acquire this summer, due to the club owning World Cup winner Christoph Kramer, his signing would be a real coup. Furthermore, if, as expected Yaya Toure moves on this summer, he would be the ideal replacement and it is reported the 25-year-old would cost between £12m and £20m.
One player who could definitely do a job in there is Ilkay Gundogan. With speculation surrounding a number of Borussia Dortmund players, the cultured midfielder could excel in the Premier League under the right manager, in a world class, young, hungry team. And with the 24-year-old having just over a year to run on his contract, Dortmund couldn’t realistically command anything over £20m, especially if the player wanted to leave.
At the back, City are still yet to find an outstanding centre back to partner captain Vincent Kompany, with Mangala proving he is too error-prone, Demichellis ageing, and Matija Nastasic seemingly nothing more than average. Even Kompany himself has struggled at times this season.
Atletico Madrid’s Toby Alderweireld, who is on loan at Southampton currently, has been outstanding and should he want to stay in England, though want to challenge for silverware, a move to City could make sense for all concerned. It is certainly going to be an interesting summer at the Etihad, though the strength of their signings may depend on who is in charge.