Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola could let as many as seven of his current first-team players leave on a free transfer in the summer to make way for a massive shake-up at the club.
Jesus Navas and Willy Caballero lead the list of players who are most likely to be allowed to let their contracts expire, while Yaya Toure, Pablo Zabaleta, Bacary Sagna, Gael Clichy and Aleksandar Kolarov are also believed to be in the final six months of their contract.
The Citizens have one of the oldest squads in the Premier League, particularly in their defence, and are in need of reinforcements. Interestingly, their need for new faces in defence isn’t a result of an obliviousness, but rather the opposite; City have brought in a new centre-half every season under the reigns of Roberto Mancini, Manuel Pellegrini and Pep Guardiola, but hardly any of them have succeeded long-term.
Roberto Mancini brought in Jerome Boateng, Stefan Savic and Matija Nastasic for a combined outlay of £37 million from 2010 until 2013. All of them have moved on.
Manuel Pellegrini brought in Martin Demichelis, Eliaquim Mangala and Nicolas Otamendi for a total of £74 million from 2013 until 2015. Only Otamendi remains at the club while Mangala, who took up £42 million of the combined fees between the trio, was sent on loan to Valencia.
Pep Guardiola looked to rectify the errors of City’s profligate past by…spending even more money on Everton centre-half John Stones. He spent £47 million on the England international, who has seen game time hard to come by after some costly errors against Southampton and Leicester in the league.
Evidently, Manchester City are aware of the problem. Their need to find a partner for Vincent Kompany (or perhaps now a replacement considering his perpetual state of injury) has lead them to spend recklessly over and over again in a trial-and-error method that their endless pockets can afford.
What Pep Guardiola cannot afford, however, is another costly signing at centre-half to flop. Of course, there is time for John Stones to get things right and become Manchester City’s top centre-half, but the burden of pressure might currently be too great for the 22-year-old to bear.
So who will Pep Guardiola bring in to shake things up at City? And just how far will he go in search of a squad who can meet the demands of his style of play?