It appears boundless wealth, bountiful silverware, and the mentorship of one of football’s best tacticians is not enough for some.
At least, not enough for Dutch conjurer Frenkie de Jong, who opted Wednesday to join Barcelona despite the reported interest of fellow European juggernauts Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City.
For once, City didn’t get their man. Despite boasting a Pep Guardiola-guided first team rife with world-class talents, the need to replace a mellowing Fernandinho in a defensive midfield role is now a priority this summer.
With money a non-deterrent, here’s a look at four alternative options for the Premier League holders:
Tanguy Ndombele (Lyon)
Now that De Jong is off the market, Lyon stud Tanguy Ndombele jumps a rung on the ladder of world-class-in-waiting, and he’s not far off the top.
Capable of playing multiple positions in the midfield, the 22-year-old can carry the ball and dominate with a robust physical presence, often as part of a double-pivot alongside Lucas Tousart in Bruno Genesio’s midfield. As Les Gones seek wide attacks through Memphis Depay and Bertrand Traore, box-to-box Ndombele is adept at surging forward into central attacking positions.
With keen instincts in determining between assisting the attack and shielding the backline, Ndombele appears the perfect match for City, especially given his crisp passing and dribbling. Reports suggest City’s interest in the Frenchman would require a bid in excess of £70 million.
Catch even an abridged glimpse of Napoli midfielder Allan and you’ll see why he’s a favorite of supporters and managers alike. Like Ndombele, Allan can perform multiple functions on both sides of the ball.
The 28-year-old profits from a top-tier work rate and countless tireless endeavors; he frequently recovers possession before releasing a perfectly weighted through ball. In the rare instance where City loses the ball, the Brazilian’s physical stature and retrieval skills would be well-suited to the physical rigors of Premier League football.
Reports indicate Allan won’t come cheap; sources in Italy speculate a potential requisite fee of €100 million, dwarfing City’s club-record £60-million move for Riyad Mahrez.
Thiago Alcantara (Bayern Munich)
It’s no secret Guardiola and Bayern Munich midfielder Thiago Alcantara have some mutual affection from their time together in Germany. This season under Niko Kovac, Thiago has often found himself in the familiar deeper role he developed under Guardiola in the Bavarian capital.
The Spanish international doesn’t fit the mold of a traditional defensive midfielder, but there’s little Thiago can’t do. The 27-year-old’s composure and positional awareness would suit a deep role in the Premier League well, as would his ability to control the ball under immense pressure.
Guardiola’s Thiago oder nix (Thiago or nothing!) demand to pry the versatile midfielder from another club already worked on one occasion – why not a second?
Julian Weigl (Borussia Dortmund)
If City are compelled by an uncharacteristically economical approach to talent recruitment, they could do worse than Julian Weigl.
Like the aforementioned trio, the 23-year-old is part of a new generation of midfielders with an angular build and skill set drawing comparisons to Sergio Busquets. Now surplus at Borussia Dortmund following the additions of Axel Witsel and Thomas Delaney, Weigl should be on the move this summer.
City were linked with Weigl as recently as September, with reports suggesting Dortmund appraised the five-capped Die Mannschaft man at £68 million. That value has now surely dropped.