Typically, City fans are used to hearing transfer rumors of incoming players linked to the club. Unfortunately this time, City fans are on the other side of the spectrum. Reports came flying out, just before the weekend match against Fulham, that Ilkay Gundogan and Nicolas Otamendi were open to moves away from the club in the summer. Both players have played significant roles for the club throughout their time here. This has sparked debate, and concern within the club, as these players futures at Man City are in jeopardy.
For Ilkay Gundogan: He has refused a contract extension. This story has picked up steam this season, as Gundogan is entering the final year of his 4 year deal that he signed. Pep even spoke publicly of his desire to keep Gundogan tied down long term. The latest news however, does not look good. According to reports, Gundogan has put contract talks on hold. The report suggests that Gundogan is unconvinced of his role next year. He fears that he will not be a starter going forward and has decided to ride out the last year of his contract. The report suggests that Gundogan is happy at City, but the issue is about playing time. Gundogan feels that his extended role this year has more to do with injuries. With De Bruyne and Fernandinho in and out of the side, it has seen Gundogan’s role increase. Foden is expected to have a more impactful role next year, as City remain determined to develop him instead of loaning him out. There is reports of frustration from Foden on a lack of playing time, and City are determined to up his role. City also are expecting to add a younger holding midfielder the summer, to groom and eventually replace Fernandinho. For Gundogan, he sees this as not good news for him, and is holding out to see where his playing time goes.
City remain determined to secure Gundogan to an extension. But the longer it drags out, the worse it looks. If Gundogan doesnt sign a new deal by the summer, there is a strong possibility that City will look to sell him, rather than let the 28 year old walk on a free. The report did not link Gundogan with any teams. However, Inter Milan in the past have expressed huge interest in Gundogan. A top quality player like Gundogan would not be short of suitors, if he were to come available.
Nicolas Otamendi: Another player linked with a move away is Otamendi. According to Sam Lee of GOAL, Otamendi is open to an exit in the summer. The report suggests that Otamendi is very happy at City, and is not actively pursuing an exit. But, if a team were to come along and offer him regular playing time week in an week out, he would have to consider his options. In the report, a few teams were linked to Otamendi, including Wolverhampton, his former club Valencia and a few unnamed Chinese Super League teams.
Sam Lee also expresses that City are interested in adding another CB. Otamendi’s exit would clear the way for such move to happen. Sam Lee suggests that City are big admirers of Matthijs De Light of AJAX and Milan Skriniar of Inter Milan.
My Take: I believe both reports on these players. At the same time, I will remain optimistic that things will work out for both players.
I believe City are most in danger of losing Ilkay Gundogan. His apparent grievance is actually quite correct. Before this year, he was mostly a rotational player. During our EPL Title campaign, he mostly was the first player off the bench. He was not a regular starter. Gundogan has seen an increased role due to injuries to Kevin De Bruyne and Fernandinho. Next year, with De Bruyne hopefully fit, and the addition of a new holding midfielder, as well as an apparent increased role for Foden, Gundogan could find himself back in a rotational role. At 28, he’s in the prime of his career. This decision for him is not about money, or not being happy at Man City. From what we know, he loves it here. He just wants to make the most of his prime years. If City cannot offer him a regular starting role, he could move on and play regularly elsewhere. If Gundogan doesnt sign an extension in the summer, expect City to sell him. They will not let a player of his caliber go for free.
For Otamendi, Im pretty confident that everything is okay. Earlier in the year, there was a similar report on him unhappy with not playing. His role increased as the season progressed. He now has basically started every match since the return from the Christmas break. I haven't seen anything to lead me to believe that Otamendi is headed for the exit. He recently signed a long term extension. Hes also a favorite of Pep Guardiola. There was a bit of a rotational problem early on in the season. With Stones and Laporte pretty much playing every match, due to their form, plus the hot start City were on. I think things have evened out, and Im confident Nico is happy here. City will need to continue with rotation, if they are to keep players happy though. I do not buy that City are interested in another CB. De Light and Skriniar are top class players. There simply isnt room on the team.