With the transfer window in full swing, ESPN FC's Manchester City blogger Simon Curtis discusses how Manuel Pellegrini's side are shaping up ahead of the new season.
IN -- Fernando Reges (FC Porto, 10 million pounds), Willy Caballero (Malaga, 6 million pounds), Bacary Sagna (Arsenal, free), Bruno Zuculini (Racing Club, 1.5 million pounds)
OUT -- Gareth Barry (Everton, free), Costel Pantilimon (Sunderland, free), Joleon Lescott (West Brom, free)
SUMMER TRANSFER WINDOW ASSESSMENTS
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Since the Abu Dhabi take-over, the budget has been more or less what the owners felt like spending with a cheeky extra "MCFC surcharge" from the selling club just for the heck of it. This is clearly not the case anymore, as the club looks to turn a profit and -- in doing so -- meet the stringent needs of Michel Platini's Financial Fair Play rulings to ensure continued participation in European competition. These days, whilst all top transfers have so many noughts attached to them that they look in slightly poor taste, you can find City's spending once more being dwarfed by the likes of Arsenal and Manchester United. 49 million appears to be the magic number to stay below and so far that has been achieved, with most of the expected business already wrapped up.
Rate your business so far
8/10. The summer spend has been done relatively early and has successfully captured the targets for the positions that manager Manuel Pellegrini pinpointed as needing reinforcement. In World Cup years it is notoriously difficult to get any decent business done before the end of the tournament, leaving many clubs scrabbling to tie up deals or following those players that have shone temporarily during the tournament and now carry a whopping price tag, but City have succeeded, even bringing in a player who was semi-busy in Brazil (Sagna was a bit part player in France's modest success in South America).
A past criticism of the club has been the lack of early action in the summer market and this was seen as a reason for the club's drop in performance between the two title-winning years, but this time such words can be reserved for some of City's rivals, who have still to do any of their promised shopping. Why only eight if all has been done so efficiently? Some will say there is a lack of real star quality to the new faces, but these are signings to bolster a star-studded squad and, in that respect, have been carried out in an exemplary fashion.
Who should be sold?
This is a difficult question at City, as any player sales will inevitably be intertwined with the club's approach to FFP. UEFA's punishment means City will have to go forth with a restricted squad and this in turn means some slightly unusual trimming must be undertaken. Some players who should really be shipped out may stay on and others, who one might have thought worthy of a second chance, may not receive it. As a result, the likes of Dedryck Boyata have been given a new contract when they are plainly not up to the standard required.
Some who have not made a significant impression are Jack Rodwell and, partly owing to injuries, Matija Nastasic, whilst others (Micah Richards, Scott Sinclair, Javi Garcia, Gareth Barry) have gone/will go as a result of natural fall-off, as the squad pruning continues. It still looks as if there might have to be one more international cut adrift (Alvaro Negredo?) to meet UEFA's orders, as cutting the squad driftwood seems to be exactly the sort of move that will appease the FFP ruling.
Who should be signed?
The Porto pair of Fernando and Elaquim Mangala (to be confirmed soon) were long-term targets that could already have been on board last January while the arrivals of Sagna and Caballero have been signalled in the press for some time too. Fernando will act as back-up to Fernandinho and may replace Javi Garcia in the squad if Pellegrini decides to let the Spaniard go, whilst Mangala will come in alongside Vincent Kompany as a strong and energetic partner for the Belgian captain in central defence, an area where City have failed to cement since the first Premier League win which featured a rock solid Lescott-Kompany axis in the middle. City had also been linked with Roma's excellent Mehdi Benatia but the expected signing of Mangala indicates how highly they rate him.
Problem solving: What do you need?
City enter the new season as Premier League champions and, as such, do not have many obvious problem areas especially as back-up keeper, defence and support at right-back and defensive midfield have all been sorted. Only a problem with either Yaya Toure or Alvaro Negredo would produce new shuffling about in the transfer market at this stage. Negredo finished last season a shadow of the raging bull seen before Christmas and may still be jettisoned. Some might also say the debut season of compatriot Jesus Navas was slightly underwhelming and if there was movement in the wide positions, maybe a stronger player could be considered there, but it would seem that all transfers have now been completed barring any unexpected agent-led occurrences.