May 29, 2024

Manchester City’s rivals have changed the transfer market, as evidenced by activity during the Arsenal game.

Txiki Begiristain and Khaldoon Al Mubarak did the unthinkable the last time Manchester City’s full-backs were in such doubt.

With Pep Guardiola tearing his figurative hair out over his options during his first year at the Etihad, his bosses sanctioned a second summer of heavy spending, including a £50 million purchase of Kyle Walker, which blew far too many football minds. A then-record fee for a defender drew mockery from Match of the Day host Gary Lineker, pointed remarks from then-Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho about ‘crazy’ figures for ‘normal players,’ and some laughable claims from rival clubs that the move inflated the transfer market.

Walker, of course, will be remembered as one of the best pound-for-pound signings during Guardiola’s tenure in England, the former Tottenham Hotspur man proving his former manager Mauricio ochetPtino and so many others wrong by raising his game even further to become an integral part of a team that has since won four of the last five Premier League titles. And the fact that he cost £50 million did not compel Manchester United to pay the same fee for Aaron Wan-Bissaka.

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Walker, 31, may still have many years to give to the City team, but he and fellow full-back Joao Cancelo have fallen out of favor since the World Cup, with Guardiola preferring either rookie Rico Lewis or a backline made up entirely of centre-backs. With the decision to compensate with Sergio Gomez as a potential Oleksandr Zinchenko replacement not paying off, City must be looking for at least one full-back this summer.

However, the market landscape has changed since the’madness’ of the Walker fee. It may be much more difficult for City to shore up their flaws this summer than it was in 2017.

According to 2021/22 financial reports, Liverpool and United both have larger wage bills than City, and while Erling Haaland’s bill will rise at the Etihad, it may not change the standings because their rivals have also made significant investments. United spent over £200 million in the previous transfer window and are interested in signing Harry Kane this summer, while Liverpool are expected to be in the running for the marquee signing of Jude Bellingham this summer.

Chelsea and Arsenal have also increased their competition for City. Todd Boehly has sanctioned £460 million in transfers in his first six months in West London, including paying far more than City were ever going to pay Brighton for Marc Cucurella; inventive long-term contracts have certainly caused a stir, but they have also allowed more money to be spent.

Despite being outbid by Chelsea for Mykhailo Mudryk, Arsenal were not content to increase their spending for the season to more than £140 million with the signing of Leandro Trossard, as they look to raid Brighton again with a £70 million package for Moises Caicedo.

Such activity may prompt Mourinho to make another comment, and Guardiola has recently felt the need to bring up the fact that many clubs around City are spending a lot more money – particularly when net spend is calculated. At the very least, if and when City do spend a premium this summer to improve their midfield and full-back positions, they can expect a slew of rivals to outbid and outwit them in the market.

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