The Blues still have plenty of business to do this summer but have already landed two major deals while their rivals have been left floundering
Manchester City have upped the ante in the transfer market this summer, whipping their fans into a frenzy and catching their rivals on the hop at the same time.
With more than three weeks to go until the transfer window even opens, City have already wrapped up two of their five priority signings, and there is a promise of more to come once the international fixtures are out of the way.
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While Liverpool were forced into an embarrassing abandonment of their Virgil van Dijk interest, and Manchester United’s long pursuit of Antoine Griezmann eventually came to nothing, City have been both ruthless and intelligent in their business so far.
By kicking things off just five days after the season ended, pulling off the major coup of bringing in Bernardo Silva from Monaco, the Blues have raised expectation levels around the Premier League.
It soon became apparent that City were not messing around, and within 24 hours of Silva’s arrival in Manchester it was clear that Benfica goalkeeper Ederson, Tottenham right-back Kyle Walker, Monaco left-back Benjamin Mendy and Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez were also at the top of Pep Guardiola’s shopping list.
Beyond those five, City will look to sign seven or eight players in total, perhaps as many as nine.
With Ederson officially announced on Thursday, following a short delay while the relevant authorities ensured all third-party ownership issues had been resolved, City fans are already looking forward to what comes next.
The wait may not be too long, and there must be a sense of trepidation among their rivals that the Blues are absolutely determined to sign exactly who they want, and seem perfectly capable of pulling it off.
Director of football Txiki Begiristain has been working on these deals for months, and there is a huge confidence at City that they will get their top targets. Alexis is certainly regarded by those on the outside as the toughest deal to pull off, but things are said to be progressing towards a positive resolution.
City have long known that the Chilean wants to move to the Etihad Stadium, but have been wary that Arsenal would much rather sell to Bayern Munich, who would welcome him with open arms.
He is not quite on the verge of signing, as had been reported on Wednesday, but there has been a recent surge in confidence among the City hierarchy that they will eventually get their man.
It now seems Bayern are out of the picture: Alexis’ representatives are happy to move him to Manchester, having previously been keen to look at what the Bundesliga champions have to offer.
Arsenal remain reluctant sellers but there is a hope around the Etihad that the Gunners will soon make a statement signing of their own and allow Alexis, begrudgingly, to link up with Guardiola, his former boss at Barcelona, once again.
City’s pursuit would also be helped by Bayern finding a suitable alternative, but the feeling is that both Carlo Ancelotti and Arsene Wenger have now realised that the Chile international only wants one thing: to sign for City.
Even so, Alexis is some way off being confirmed as Guardiola’s latest signing, though there could certainly be more names through the door in the next fortnight.
There is interest from other clubs in Walker and particularly Mendy, but City believe they will not be gazumped: if they do not get their men, it will be due to their current clubs playing hardball and refusing to sell, rather than the players choosing to go elsewhere.
Both Monaco and Tottenham have been difficult during recent negotiations, but that is regarded as nothing out of the ordinary when it comes to big-money transfers – especially where Daniel Levy is concerned.
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The international fixtures have also contributed to something of a delay, but City are hopeful that they will be able to work towards finalising further signings once their targets are no longer with their countries. With France playing England next Tuesday, there could be movement on deals for Mendy and Walker, as well as Southampton’s Ryan Bertrand, towards the end of next week and into the week after.
Bertrand is one of four full-backs City want to sign this summer, and one of several names beyond City’s five-man priority list. The Blues also want a second right-back, and Kylian Mbappe remains an option, though there has always been an acceptance that Real Madrid are favourites to sign him, while he could yet sign a new contract at Monaco. A new deal would obviously mean City could not sign the 18-year-old this summer, but they would almost certainly try again in a year’s time.
Bayern Munich’s Douglas Costa is another player being pursued, but only if something goes wrong with the Alexis deal, and the Brazilian also has other Premier League suitors.
City are also monitoring centre-backs, and they are now in a better position to sign Southampton’s Van Dijk, should they decide to sign a central defender at all, after Liverpool attempts to lure the Dutchman ended in catastrophe.
The Blues are still reluctant to pay £60m for the former Celtic defender, but with Liverpool now out of the running, and Southampton surely keen to cash in for big money eventually, there could be a deal to be done later in the summer. If not Van Dijk, City have several other alternatives.
But for now, City will concentrate on working their way through their priority targets. With Silva and Ederson already in the bag, they will work to bring in Mendy, Walker and Alexis in the coming weeks, before moving on to reinforcements elsewhere.
They will know that anything can happen at the negotiating table – as they will have seen with Van Dijk and Griezmann, and indeed as they experienced last year with Athletic’s Aymeric Laporte – but if Begiristain & Co. keep this up in the coming weeks and months they will have plenty to celebrate come the start of next season. Then the real hard work starts.