Every summer transfer window provides a unique opportunity for clubs to refresh their squads and plan for the season ahead. That comes with its surprises for most top sides. While some players are brought in to fill perceived gaps in the team to strengthen the squad, others choose to leave for one reason or the other. Manchester City has had their fair share of such arrivals and departures in the last few years.
First team players like Leroy Sane and Eric Garcia decided against extending their stay with the club despite still having long playing careers ahead of them.
But others like Vincent Kompany and David Silva felt it was important not to overstay their welcome after several years of faithful service to the club. With Sergio Aguero already set to leave at the end of the campaign that creates room in the squad for another forward.
As for arrivals, after splashing the cash to make sweeping changes to the team in his first two campaigns, Pep Guardiola has bought sparingly in the last couple of seasons.
The last two campaigns have seen the addition of Rodri, Joao Cancelo, Zack Steffen, Nathan Ake, Ferran Torres and Ruben Dias to the first team. That also means some players have seen their minutes reduced as others have taken their place in the starting XI.
It does appear some of these players are unhappy with the situation. That, to the extent they are considering hitting the exit door. The manager’s comments while answering questions ahead of the game against Brighton reveals as much.
“The quality of the players is there. We’ll talk at the end of the season. There are players that accept one typical situation in the team and there are other ones that don’t accept it,” Guardiola said about some disgruntled members of his squad.
“When they don’t accept sometimes not playing, you can sustain that for one season – a short period – but not for a long period. It’s impossible. In that position, we have to change. We’ll see at the end of the season. We’ll talk with them and we’ll be clear, they’ll be clear, and we’ll decide the best for the players.
“There are players that when you arrive at a level and accept it, but when you reach another level and after you drop a little bit, then you have to change. Sometimes it’s possible [to change], sometimes not. We’ll see what happens.”
With that in mind, here are three players that could leave the Etihad Stadium in search of more playing time:
How times change! Just two seasons ago, Aymeric Laporte was the undisputed king in the Manchester City defence. The former Athletic Bilbao centre-back was the main man as Guardiola rotated all of Nicholas Otamendi, John Stones and Kompany (when fit) around him.
And after Kompany left, Laporte’s long-term injury last term cost City dearly. Fernandinho was drafted to act as cover for the position as both Stones and Otamendi struggled.
Consequently, the team lost the Premier League title to Liverpool and came up short in the Champions League.
The manager knew what he needed to do.
Enter Ruben Dias.
The Portuguese fit perfectly into the team. His leadership and form have breathed new life into Stones who has recaptured his best form. Their partnership at the back has provided a solid foundation for the team to build on.
That has seen City reclaim the league crown and reach the Champions League final for the first time in the club’s history.
In the midst of this success, Laporte has been sidelined for the most part playing just 16 league games all season. For a player fighting to secure international football, playing a bit part role at club level will not help his course. It’s understandable then if he is one of the players Guardiola is referring to.
With the current form of both Dias and Stones, it’s unlikely Guardiola will break up the partnership anytime soon. That may mean Laporte looks elsewhere for regular playing time if he is not willing to wait in line for his turn. Nathan Ake may be happy to provide the needed backup for the starters.
When the Frenchman made a big-money move to the Etihad Stadium in 2017, many City fans expected him to fill the void left by Alexander Kolarov seasons earlier. Unfortunately, that is yet to happen. In fact, it may never happen if the last four years are anything to go by.
Persistent injuries and poor form have left Guardiola with no choice but to convert midfielders into left-backs. Moving forward, the Catalan boss may need to find a replacement. That leaves the former Monaco man with only one option.
Originally expected to be the heir apparent to Aguero’s position, that too doesn’t seem to be happening. Guardiola has reinvented his tactics to consistently play with a false nine this season. The main reason is that his strikers have not been there for him when he needs them.
First, it was due to injuries. And then when they returned, both Aguero and Jesus failed to live up to expectations. As a result, the Argentine’s contract was not renewed. With only eight goals in 28 league games, Jesus was sidelined by the manager in the big games (particularly in Europe).
Instead, Kevin De Bruyne is now preferred as a false nine in such games. The FA Cup semi-final is the biggest game the Brazilian has been trusted to lead the line recently. He failed to register a goal or even an assist as the team lost 1-0 to Chelsea.
Playing on the fringes of any team is not good for a Brazilian number 9. Unless he is promised more playing time next season, there is the likelihood that the 24-year-old will seek opportunities elsewhere.
City on their part could use that as an opportunity to include him in a deal to sign a top-class striker. That will significantly reduce the cost of acquiring a player like Erling Haaland, or Harry Kane.