There’s transfer windows and then there’s transfer windows, but has there ever been one with more significant arrivals and departures – not forgetting ‘remainers’ – at Manchester City?
The double purchase of Croatian internationals Josko Gvardiol and Mateo Kovacic looks great business at just over £100m, especially in a market of extortionate fees and, more significantly, hugely inflated wages courtesy of the Saudi Arabian Pro League.
Fresh off the back of their amazing Treble winning success, City are right in the thick of this summer’s wheeling and dealing, even more so in the wake of losing injured Kevin De Bruyne, for up to four months.
Ilkay Gundogan (32) and Riyad Mahrez (32) have already gone and there’s every likelihood that the hugely popular Aymeric Laporte (29) is heading for the exit – albeit reluctantly – due to a lack of first team opportunities.
City fans will be saddened to see ‘Eric’ leave, but the arrival of 21-year-old Gvardiol, would suggest less game time for the Spanish international. It’s believed Laporte would prefer a move back to Spain, but there’s a massive contract on offer to him from Al-Nassr in Saudi.
Joao Cancelo (29) is clearly persona non grata in the eyes of Pep Guardiola and could be heading to Barcelona on loan with an obligation/option to buy.
With the crooked Catalans continuing to stink the place out with their dubious fiscal dealings, it must be hoped City aren’t in the business of doing Barca any favourable ‘soft’ deals, akin to the Ferran Torres transfer back in January 2022.
Of more concern is the unwanted interest from Bayern Munich for Stefan Ortega Moreno, surely the best ‘back-up’ goalkeeper in world football.
Picked up on a free transfer from Arminia Bielefeld last summer, the 30-year-old German has performed superbly, especially in half-a-dozen FA Cup ties, conceding just the one goal – United’s highly dubious penalty at Wembley.
The lure of returning to Germany as Bayern’s number one keeper cannot be overstated, but it would be madness for City to let him go at this stage. Guardiola has always said he won’t stand in the way of a player who wants to go, provided it was right for City.
This has to be a case where it is patently wrong for City, in a season packed with more games than ever before, courtesy of the Super Cup Final and FIFA World Club Championship in December.
Two of City’s most influential signings should be announced shortly, and they’re sure to bring huge sighs of relief to the Etihad faithful.
Having fended off the spurious annual ‘interest’ from the aforementioned crooks of Catalan, (did they really think they could buy Bernardo Silva using pesetas from the last century) City’s Number 20, who has just turned 29, is set to extend his contract beyond his current 2025 deal, through to 2026.
It will be the best possible deal done by Txiki Begiristain and Co in 2023. The only fly in the ointment could be a release clause which doesn’t feature in Bernardo's present City agreement.
It’ll be similarly welcome news if City’s resident speedster, Kyle Walker (33) extends his deal – scheduled to run out next summer – until 2026. Despite his age, Walker shows no signs of slowing down – hence Bayern Munich’s very public desire to purchase the England full back.
Having looked set for the Bundesliga, Walker will be staying courtesy of Pep’s powers of persuasion and a healthy new contract.
Keeping both Bernardo and Walker is massive, but without further signings in the last fortnight of the window, there’s a fear City could be light on numbers, especially in De Bruyne’s absence.
Despite City’s usual stance of refusing to discuss players of other clubs – and rightly so – there is obvious traction in speculation linking the club with Belgian winger, Jeremy Doku (21) and Brazilian midfielder, Lucas Paqueta (25).
Whether or not Cole Palmer (21) could feature – in some guise, either on loan or a permanent switch – in a deal with West Ham to acquire the £80m rated Paqueta, isn’t yet clear. A cagey Guardiola certainly didn’t rule it out in his pre-Super Cup Final press conference.
City’s interest in Paqueta came as a surprise to many, but on reflection he was more than beginning to find his feet towards the latter stages of his debut Premier League season.
When the often-underrated Mahrez left for £30m and headed off to Saudi, the big question was would City be in the market for a new wide attacker? Any links with Michael Olise at Crystal Palace have now disappeared with Chelsea activating his £35m release clause. One more addition to Todd Boehly’s one billion pound – yes £1bn – spend since his Chelsea takeover in 2022.
But Olise was never the top target. Doku, presently playing for Rennes in Ligue 1 was always City’s number one.
He’s less well known to many City fans, so Read But Never Red hooked up with Islam Feslegen – someone who has closely monitored the Belgian starlet over the past three years – to seek his observations and insights on a player who looks likely to sign a five-year deal at the Etihad:
‘Doku has an incredibly fluid style to his movements, reminiscent of Ronaldinho. His touch and technique are flawless. Nicknamed the ‘Belgian Flash’, he glides with the ball as opposed to more famous and established stars such as Vinicius Jnr at Real Madrid. The Brazilian is undoubtedly effective, but his moves are a tad mechanical. ‘Doku’s reactions when carrying the ball forward is unparalleled. He has a fantastic reading of the game, superb spatial awareness and the nous and ability to exploit it.
‘In terms of understanding the game and creating space, he’s as good as a footballer can be.
‘His pace is explosive over the first 5-10 metres – one of the best in the world. He possesses great strength and balance and can’t easily be pushed off the ball, except when fouled. He’s expert in protecting the ball, rarely coughing up possession – a trait that sits well with Pep. His decision-making is very good, especially for such a young player and, at a projected fee of between £40m-£50m, he’d be an absolute steal.’ High praise indeed. Given such a glowing assessment of Doku – if City sign him does he attract a new nickname of ‘Su? Maybe that should be left to the humourists on the terraces to figure out!
The only downside appears to be he is not an accomplished goal scorer – certainly not at Mahrez’s level.
Maybe he doesn’t have to be if he’s creating chances by the bucket load for Erling Haaland, Julian Alvarez and City’s attacking midfielders.
If Doku and Paqueta are wearing City sky blue come September 1st, Pep could arguably have a stronger, younger, hungrier and more vibrant squad than that of last season.
Having made a £100m+ transfer profit in 2022, and thus far incurred a meagre net spend of £14.3m in 2023, the numbers are stacking up in City’s favour.
By David Walker
Twitter @ReadButNeverRed @djwskyblu