Manchester City has been active in the transfer market this summer and their shrewd moves hint that they are taking their title defense very seriously. Manuel Pellegrini has only added a few players to his team and is taking the axe to some of the deadwood around the club. The minimal tinkering the Chilean is doing will keep a solid core of players, and enable the team that succeeded last year to continue their winning ways. The Citizens have already added depth to their midfield with the likes of Fernando, whose nickname “The Octopus,” alludes to how the ball is constantly sticking to his feet from the many tackles he makes in his midfield destroyer role.
City is also in the process of signing Eliaquim Mangala, a French central defender. Although he is just 23-years-old, Mangala already has plenty of top-flight first team experience under his belt. He had 77 appearances for Standard Liège in Belgium from 2008 to 2011, and another 51 for Porto from 2011 until 2014. Porto is also Fernando’s previous club, giving the pair plenty of experience on the pitch together. Signing Mangala is also smart because Demichelis, the current number two central defender, is already 33 years old, and will likely not be able to play consistently all season long.
Unfortunately for Manchester City, the arrival of Mangala would push the club very near the limit of UEFA’s Financial Fair Play restrictions set in place earlier this year. The Citizens are required to limit their net spending to just £49 million. The Sky Blues have already spent around £20 million, but Mangala is rumored to cost almost £30 million. City, like all teams in the Premier League, are also required to have just 17 international players on their squad who are over the age of 21. If Mangala does come into the team, the club will be one player over the rule in the English top flight.
In UEFA Champions League the situation is even worse because Manchester City was ruled to have only a 21-man squad in the competition for the upcoming season as part of the punishment for their breach of UEFA’s Financial Fair Play. They are required to have at least five homegrown players on their team, meaning they can have only 16 overseas players on their squad. The number was generously lowered from the original ruling, which required eight. City currently have eight players on their squad who are considered homegrown: Joe Hart, Richard Wright, Micah Richards, Dedryck Boyata, Gael Clicky, Jack Rodwell, James Milner, Scott Sinclair, and John Guidetti. According to the Manchester Evening News, Micah Richards, Jack Rodwell and Scott Sinclair are all transfer listed, which would leave the club with the bare minimum of five homegrown players.
Matija Nastasić, Javi Garcia, and Alvaro Negredo, who are all considered overseas players, are rumored to be surplus to requirement at the club as well, and have a strong possibility of leaving Manchester City during the summer transfer window before the team’s title defense begins. Besides Fernando, City has signed an additional two overseas players this summer who will be on the first team. Bacary Sagna ran out of his contract at Arsenal this summer, after the right back spent seven years at the London club, so the Citizens were able to pick the Frenchman up on a free transfer. Willy Caballero was bought from Málaga for a fee of around £6 million. The goalkeeper has spent time under the Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini previously, with Caballero playing under the Chilean at Málaga from 2011 to 2013. He will likely be the back up goalkeeper to Joe Hart, since Costel Pantilimon left for Sunderland earlier this summer. The Sky Blues also signed a young Argentine midfielder by the name of Bruno Zuculini, who will likely be loaned out to either Villarreal or Málaga.
All three of Nastasić, Garcia and Negredo struggled last season for Manchester City. Nastasić would likely be the fourth choice center back at the club this year, with the captain Vincent Kompany being the number one choice, and Mangala and Demichelis fighting it out for the second spot. Garcia has made 71 appearances for the Manchester club, many of them substitutions, since joining from Benfica in 2012. He struggles to regularly make the first team with such quality midfielders as Silva, Fernandinho, Touré and Nasri ahead of him on the team sheet. Negredo only just transferred from Sevilla last season. He had 23 goals in all competitions, but only 9 in the Premier League. None of them are likely to see consistent first team action this year, except as substitutes or in domestic cup competitions, so moves would likely benefit all parties.
Another player who could be sold, and would greatly relieve Manchester City’s financial restrictions, is Yaya Touré. The 31-year-old has made a fuss this summer over some silly things such as City forgetting his birthday. After finishing third in scoring in last year’s Premier League, his financial value will likely never be higher. Therefore from a purely business standpoint it is a logical move, but if they were to sell him they would need to sign another midfielder in the upper echelon of world football, such as Vidal or Pogba from Juventus, both of whom may want to leave the club after their manager, Antonio Conte, resigned. Yaya is a class player who can change a game single handedly, but he has seen his fair share of injuries over the years, and with his physical style of play, the Ivorian will likely need more and more time recovering between games as he gets older.
Since City are being clever in the market, it shows that they are taking UEFA’s Financial Fair Play restrictions seriously. They have not gone out and smashed their transfer record as in previous seasons. They are also letting some of the many star players that they have accumulated over the past few years mature and gel together during a complete preseason, and without the distraction of long transfer sagas. The fact that Manchester City has been very shrewd in the summer transfer market also hints that they are taking their title defense very seriously, as well as the challenge of the UEFA Champions League, where they have yet to perform up to the standards of a top European club.
Commentary by B. Taylor Rash