Manchester City look to be facing a busier transfer window than expected which could give Pep Guardiola a huge challenge.
When you complete a game, you have two choices: Either you leave the game forever with the enormous satisfaction of a job well done, or you instantly return to the beginning, increase the difficulty, and start from scratch. Guessing which one Pep Guardiola would take is not a contest.
The Manchester City manager would be remembered as the best manager of his generation and possibly all time if he retired from sport today. In addition to altering the way the game is played everywhere from the biggest stages to the ugliest park fields, he has also won every possible prize in three different nations.
Guardiola just led his City team to a surprising Treble victory, which many had written off by mid-February. This is his most recent and probably greatest accomplishment. After a 12-year wait, finally winning the illusive Champions League trophy.
Similar to how Lionel Messi’s World Cup triumph served as his career’s unneeded but fulfilling capstone, City’s triumph in the European Championship was the long-awaited confirmation of what everyone already knew: City are the best and they are managed by the greatest.
It would be simple for Guardiola to hang up his boots after such a dazzling accomplishment. When his contract was ready to expire two years ago, had City defeated Chelsea in the Champions League final, he might have gone having won it all. But now that he just has two more years left, he will keep them.
So how do things continue to be intriguing after reaching their zenith? After that achievement was scoured by Nathan Jones of all individuals, the goal is to win an unprecedented quadruple. But before they can even consider doing that, City might find itself in for a lot more difficult summer than they had anticipated.
Guardiola often prefers to do little business during the transfer window because he believes that gradual change is preferable to abrupt change. There have only been two exceptions: during his second summer in command, when nine members of the first team left and three more left after going out on loan the year before, there was a complete makeover in goal and at full-back. Then, four players who were essential to the recent success moved on last summer, and Erling Haaland’s entry signaled the beginning of a new style of play.
The adjustments made last summer turned out to be a brilliant move, but it took some time for everything to click, so it was assumed that strategy would not be used this year. The winds of change, however, might be blowing through the Etihad once more, and this time they weren’t predicted by the forecast.
Even if Ilkay Gundogan remained, a midfielder was always going to be the top priority. The chance that the captain would leave when his contract expired was always a possibility, but now that he is anticipated to join Barcelona, City will likely require at least two midfielders, with Mateo Kovacic being one of them and Declan Rice being a target for the other.
The defense followed, with Joao Cancelo and Aymeric Laporte appearing to be on the verge of quitting due to their frustration. City has been in need of a new left-back for a while, but given the performances of Rico Lewis, Manuel Akanji, and Nathan Ake, they could be able to avoid signing one once more. However, if Laporte left, a new center-back would be required.
That would indicate a summer with little stress, but everything has drastically changed since then. Due to his own complaints about his little playing time, Kyle Walker is now thinking about leaving the team, while Saudi Arabia, the newest big spenders on the block, are extensively linked to both Bernardo Silva and Riyad Mahrez.
The risk of losing six key first-team players in a single summer is now being considered by City, three of whom participated in the Champions League final and all of whom made at least 20 appearances during the season.
Gundogan, who is the captain, is having his greatest season playing football and has scored significant goals in the biggest games. One of the most dependable lieutenants is Bernardo. Walker is still the team’s most seasoned player and its fastest defender. Mahrez contributed to 28 goals. Cancelo was the greatest full-back in the Premier League a year ago, and Laporte is still an excellent defender who has contributed significantly to championship wins. It would be a devastating blow and a struggle for Guardiola to lose them all in one summer.
Many players left during the chaotic summer of 2017, but they were all scheduled departures that the team didn’t miss. These players included aging full-backs like Gael Clichy and Pablo Zabaleta as well as those who weren’t good enough like Kelechi Iheanacho and Nolito. This time, City may lose players that they had planned to maintain and who are still vital to the team.
If Guardiola wants to even come close to repeating the success of last season, they will need to be replaced significantly, but perhaps the increased challenge will keep things interesting and new for a man who has done it all.