After years of struggling to cross the semi-final barrier, Manchester City finally reached the Champions League final this season. But instead of stopping to celebrate what many other teams may consider a great achievement, the club is now more determined than ever to do better than just reaching the final. And that’s to win it.
However, conquering Europe is no mean feat. It takes a lot. Beyond having the right manager and tactics, a top-notch team with square pegs in square holes all over the pitch is required.
Pep Guardiola manages one of the best squads in Europe at the moment. But there are still weak links. The fastest that comes to mind is the left-back position. It’s not the only one though.
Sergio Aguero’s departure leaves a huge void to fill in the attack just as the midfield needs bolstering. So who are the players City can bring in to take the team a notch higher?
Let’s start by looking at the left-back position.
Current team: Benfica
Season’s Statistics: Two Goals, Nine Assists in 31 League Appearances.
It’s fair to say that Man City have given Benjamin Mendy enough time to come good at the Etihad Stadium. Unfortunately, the Frenchman has failed to convince the coaches of his suitability for the club.
Battling with injuries and poor form, the 26-year-old has racked up just 49 league appearances in four years at the club. When one considers the kind of investment made to prise him away from Monaco, it’s safe to say he has failed to repay the club.
Guardiola has resorted to using midfielder Oleksandr Zinchenko at left back in the most important games (even when Mendy is fit and available for selection) And when the Ukrainian was not available, he turns to right-back Joao Cancelo to fill the void.
Simply put, Mendy needs to read the handwriting on the wall. He has not lived up to expectations. It’s time to move on.
Grimaldo has been tipped as a possible replacement. The Spaniard came through the ranks at Barcelona before leaving for the Portuguese side in search of first-team football. He has so far racked up 200 appearances since joining Benfica in 2015.
A former teammate to Ruben Dias, he will fit perfectly into City’s defence. His numbers also show he can be productive on both sides of the pitch. That will instantly improve the team.
Another player for the position linked to City is Valencia’s José Gaya. The 26-year-old Spain international is also a solid option. He comes loaded with experience ready to leave a mark on the team.
Current team: Aston Villa
Season’s Statistics: Six Goals, 10 Assists in 26 League Appearances.
Aston Villa’s Lionel Messi needs no introduction. His influence on the team has been phenomenal, leaving many marvelling at the enormous talent possessed by the England number 10. The Birmingham-born star can walk into any top European side and command a starting shirt right away.
He is that good.
For some players, statistics don’t do them justice. The stats can’t tell how much the team rallies around him and he provides leadership in both the attacking and defensive phases of the game.
When Aston Villa slams a fee of over £100 million on a player, it becomes clear he is not just another player. As both Kevin De Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan get on the wrong side of 30, bringing in Grealish will be the perfect move to add quality, creativity and grit to the team.
Current Team: Tottenham
Season’s Statistics: 23 Goals, 14 Assists in 35 League Appearances.
As the world of football still wonders why Manchester City let Sergio Aguero go this season, the decision will only make sense if the club legend is replaced by another extraordinary player in Harry Kane. The Spurs and England captain is a special breed but is been held back by an underperforming team.
With age no more on his side the striker wants out. He is forcing Daniel Levy’s hand to let him go but the Tottenham boss has a reputation for taking a hard stand on players’ departure when the team still needs them.
Kane is ready to take his chances and revealed in a recent interview that he wants to have a discussion with Levy concerning his future.
Pressed to reveal which team he would like to play for, he extolled Kevin De Bruyne’s virtues on the pitch. It was more or less a “come get me” appeal to City. Aguero’s departure provides the perfect opportunity to step in, but a £150 million transfer fee could be the stumbling block.
However, if a deal can be worked out to suit all parties including a reduction in fee and a player plus cash exchange, City will be the better for it. Gabriel Jesus can head the other way while youngster Liam Delap steps up as backup to learn from the best striker in the Premier League while being groomed for the future.
The addition of these three players will definitely make the Blues stronger and ready to take Europe by storm.