The European Championships provided a welcome relief from the rigours of league football. It has been an interesting tournament so far, a fruitful one if you are sympathetic to the cause of the Three Lions or Gli Azzurri.
However, after the final between England and Italy on Sunday, attention will shift once again to club football. Activities in the transfer market with take centre stage as the players take a deserved break before returning to action next month.
Although some clubs have been actively engaged in making new additions to beef up their squads, others are yet to do any business. Manchester City fall into the latter category. Sergio Aguero’s departure from the Etihad Stadium on a free at the end of last season suggests a big signing is on the way.
Pep Guardiola has been non-committal about paying big money to bring in a replacement. The Catalan manager is always quick to remind whoever cares to listen about the current state of affairs in the football world as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
In a recent interview, the City boss told TV3: “At the prices we are not going to buy any strikers, it is impossible, we cannot afford it. It’s impossible.
“All clubs are struggling financially, we are not an exception. We have Gabriel [Jesus], Ferran [Torres] who has been incredible in this position, we have young players in the academy, we play many times with a false nine.
“I don’t know what is going to happen. Maybe we’re going to buy but maybe we’re not going to buy a striker for next season. Today there is more chance we aren’t going to buy a striker for next season.”
Guardiola could be forgiven if City’s recent success in the Premier League and English football as a whole has made him a little overconfident. But Liverpool’s dominance in the 2019/2020 campaign should serve as a reminder that things can change very fast.
Losing key players like Virgil van Dijk, Joel Matip, Joe Gomez and captain Jordan Henderson to long-term injuries killed the Reds’ momentum and chances of defending their title. An inconsistent start to the campaign by Manchester United and Chelsea (both led by inexperienced managers) left the door open for the Cityzens to march to the Premier League throne.
The team also reached the Champions League final for the first time. But Chelsea’s triumph that completed three consecutive victories over City in three different competitions revealed a lot. Chelsea’s new boss Thomas Tuchel was always saying they were trying to close the gap with City.
Well, have they succeeded in doing that? The results speak louder than words. And that’s for just Chelsea.
Liverpool players will all be back at the beginning of the next campaign. Jordan Henderson is already helping England at the Euros.
Manchester United just signed Jadon Sancho for £73m. The City academy graduate will partner Marcus Rashford and the experienced Edinson Cavani upfront.
Luke Shaw and Harry Maguire are in the form of their lives. Aaron Wan-Bissaka is one of the best right-backs in the league (ask Raheem Sterling, who is yet to dribble past him in a game). The midfield features the most expensive player in the division - Paul Pogba, who partners Bruno Fernandes.
If Guardiola thinks the status quo will remain despite not improving his squad too, he could be in for a rude shock like Liverpool delivered two seasons back. The Premier League has a reputation for being the most competitive league in the world for a reason. The clubs are always strengthening their squads to be more competitive.
All it takes to be left behind is to stand still.
This is something the club’s chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak fully understands. His words in an interview with City’s official website last May reveal as much.
“You need to constantly bring talent into the team, refresh and particularly when you are at a high level on the top,” he said while responding to Aguero’s departure.
“Having won the league it is not the team to sit back and be content, that is the biggest mistake. This is the time to send a strong message that there is no contentment, you are not satisfied with just winning the league.
“We lose a very important legend in Sergio Agüero, very hard shoes to fill but I am confident we will find the right player to fill those shoes. There are other areas in the team that need investment, not too many, it is not about numbers, it is about quality.
“The squad is a phenomenal squad, you don’t win the Premier League and get to the Champions League final if you don’t have a good squad. We will bring quality into the squad in a couple of key positions.”
It must also be realised that the club is not competing only against Premier League opposition. In fact, conquering Europe is the most important goal right now. Paris Saint-Germain have responded to last season’s disappointment by storming the transfer market with a vengeance.
The French giants parade two of the most expensive players in the world at the moment. Yet they have added goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum, left-back Achraf Hakimi to the squad. Warhorse Sergio Ramos is also set to join.
Talk about assembling a killer squad! But the intentions are clear for all to see.
So Manchester City will have to sign a top striker to stay ahead of the competition or keep up.
That has to be the priority for the summer transfer window.
At this point, it seems there are only three options to choose from. Erling Haaland, Lautaro Martinez and of course, Harry Kane. Yes, the club may need to break transfer records to make a deal happen. It is what it is. Spending big has become a part of the game and a way to get results as well.
Chelsea’s record signing last season scored the goal in the Champions League final that secured the trophy for the club and left City fans heartbroken. If any of the three strikers ends up scoring or setting up the goal that wins next season’s UCL, it will be money well spent.
That reminds me of Mario Balotelli and Sergio Aguero in 2012. Add Edin Djeko and City had three top strikers in the squad at the same time! Why wouldn’t they beat Man United silly at Old Trafford and rub salt in the wound by winning the league title? Enough said.