Any great club, Manchester City included, needs the right transfer plan to keep competing year after year. They need to identify the right players, build the academy, and do it within the rules, of course. These three things will intersect for City this summer.
Everyone knows that Manchester City’s biggest squad concern is their future defensive midfielder. Fernandinho is 34 and the club’s potential financial issues going forward means they have to find his replacement soon. So Pep Guardiola and Txihi Begiristan have identified Saul Niguez of Atletico Madrid as their chief target.
Manchester City’s Transfer Plan This Summer
Pep Picks Saul
Born in Elche, Niguez joined Atletico Madrid’s academy at the age of 13 and never looked back. He broke into the first team after a stellar loan spell at Rayo Vallecano in 2014 and has since been a regular for Diego Simeone. In the four years since, Niguez has become one of Simeone’s most trusted players, on his way to a fourth successive season of 30+ league appearances.
For Atletico, he has really been a jack-of-all-trades. He has played plenty of games as one of two holding midfielders for Atletico and has the passing ability, range, and vision to compete with some of Spain’s best passers. He’s also played on both the left and right side of a midfield four, and even played some of this season at left-back, showing his versatility and athleticism.
It’s those qualities that make the Spaniard a perfect fit for the Premier League. He has the athleticism and toughness necessary to survive, and the skill and quality to thrive. He is also a big game player, saving some of his best performances for games against Real Madrid and Barcelona.
It’s only a question whether he would take to the position or not. He has never played at the base of a single pivot, but his skill set says he certainly could. A player like Niguez would make so much sense for Manchester City that it seems a little too good to be true.
Financial Fair Play
The UEFA Financial Fair Play regulations have loomed over the shoulder of Manchester City for some time. Not least because of their owner, Sheik Monsour of Abu Dhabi, has spent considerable money on the club and community since he bought the club. However, FFP is there to protect clubs from themselves, a necessary mechanism for the game, so circumventing its rules will bring problems.
As things currently stand four different and independent governing bodies are investigating Manchester City: the English FA, the Premier League, FIFA and UEFA. The investigations being done by both the FA and Premier League are identical to the one being done by UEFA. They are only significant if they somehow find something different than UEFA does.
The investigations being done by UEFA and FIFA are something Manchester City need to be concerned about. The FIFA investigation is about illegal practices recruiting minors to the Manchester City Academy. This is not a unique practice, but a costly one. Barcelona, Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid and now Chelsea have all been banned for two transfer windows for this violation.
The UEFA investigation regards inflating sponsorship revenue through Sheik Monsour’s personal wealth, or ‘financial doping’. This is the type of violation that could result in a limit on City’s Champions League squad size, or worse, have them thrown out of the competition altogether. Potential problems like that can really throw any club’s future out of balance.
What Happens Next?
With the hammer from both FIFA and UEFA looming, there are two things to expect. First, City will appeal any punishments from both. The FIFA punishment seems straight forward; just a two-year transfer ban like everyone else, but the UEFA punishment could mean anything from a fine to removal from the Champions League, or a squad size limit.
The timetable of these investigations looks like City will get another summer to sign players before the punishments come in, so they have identified Saul Niguez as their most important target but he is not the only target. There is a ton of interest in bringing in someone like Ben Chilwell, a young more reliable left-back than the often-injured Benjamin Mendy.
Those are not the only problems City have to address. Nicolas Otamendi wants more playing time while Vincent Kompany is out of contract still and is playing a testimonial in May. Sergio Aguero and David Silva have both indicated interest in returning home; a day which is much closer than any Cityzen would hope.
Any club needs additions to survive the departure of great players. It’s tough to see any of the above, including Fernandinho, getting any better as they age. So Manchester City face a crucial summer if they are going to continue to stand atop the mountain. Maybe that makes it all the more imperative to get the cup with the big ears.