With the collapse of Lucas Paqueta’s proposed £80m switch from West Ham to Manchester City looking a surefire bet, Pep Guardiola and Txiki Begiristain are focusing on an alternative creative midfielder signing before September 1st.
Two names have emerged from the proverbial transfer rumour mill – Florian Wirtz the 20-year-old German wonderkid from Bayer Leverkusen, and the similarly Bundesliga-based Dani Olmo (25), the more experienced Spanish international attacker at RB Leipzig.
Working under the guidance of one of the world’s finest ever midfielders – Leverkusen’s Head Coach, Xabi Alonso – it could be argued Wirtz is already in the right place to develop his game at such an early stage of his career.
Alternatively, Olmo – whose youth career began with Espanyol, switching to Barcelona’s famous academy ‘La Masia’ before taking the somewhat unorthodox move to Dinamo Zagreb – is by far, the more finished product at this stage.
The attacking midfielder began the season with a hat-trick, as RB Leipzig battered Bayern Munich 3-0 in the Allianz Arena to lift the German Super Cup. His eye-catching treble overshadowed the debut of an English player – Harry something or other – who was turning out for the opposing perennial Bundesliga champions.
Wirtz, although unproven, would command the largest fee, such is his vast potential. On the other hand Olmo – who has a £51m buyout clause in 2024 – could be acquired for circa £70m this summer, if RBL wanted to play ball.
Closer to home, Phil Foden produced a masterly display in the traditional KDB playmaker role as City did what City do when they play Newcastle United at the Etihad – scanning the Barcodes and taking maximum points.
Foden's brilliance has prompted the question, why do City need to spend big money on another attacking midfielder?
There’s a simple answer.
If Guardiola aspires to hang onto City’s hard-earned Treble – which of course he does – and even expand upon it, courtesy of the League Cup and FIFA World Club Championship, he needs quantity as well as quality.
Renowned for his preference to work with a comparatively close knit and small number of players, Pep has surely realised he could be thin on numbers with injuries and departures, in one of the most demanding seasons of his managerial career.
Against Sevilla in the UEFA Super Cup success and the 1-0 win over The Toon, there was no Kevin De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva or John Stones.
Ilkay Gundogan and Riyad Mahrez have already gone, Aymeric Laporte is on his way to Saudi Arabia (absolutely scandalous that none of Europe’s elite clubs came in for him), and Joao Cancelo should be going to Barcelona on loan, hopefully with an obligation to buy.
Mateo Kovacic and Josko Gvardiol have both hit the ground running and, in the next few hours, Jeremy Doku should be ready to ‘go down the wing’ in a City shirt. All three look like great business, but still the squad requires more depth.
As things stand De Bruyne (32) is virtually irreplaceable, he’s THE best in the world at what he does. But he can’t go on forever, especially with a longstanding hamstring injury – the sort of niggling impairment – not easily shaken off.
The brilliant Belgian is contracted to City until 2025 – and hopefully beyond – but succession planning is vital.
Gundogan and Mahrez will both turn 33 this season. Fair to say, City would have been delighted to keep both at the Etihad, but the players chose to leave. Their departures, along with Laporte (29) and Cancelo (29) will hasten the transition to a younger squad.
If City have the desire and powers of persuasion to lure Wirtz to England it makes perfect sense, irrespective of Foden’s success as cover in KDB’s absence.
It’s nonsense to suggest it would have to be a case of either/or Foden or Wirtz.
There’s an abundance of time for the Stockport Iniesta and the potential generational talent from Germany, to play alongside each other for years to come, when King Kevin finally calls it a day.
With today’s news that Pep is going to be sidelined for a few weeks after undergoing back surgery in Barcelona, it’ll be left to Txiki to do the heavy lifting on the transfer front, while Juanma Lillo directs affairs from the touchline.
Hopefully there’ll be at least one more high profile signing along with Doku, when Pep gets to say ‘Ola’ to his new intake – whoever they might be – after next month’s international break.
By David Walker
Twitter @ReadButNeverRed @djwskyblu