When it comes to players who don’t quite get the praise they deserve, Manchester City midfielder Fernandinho is at top of the list.
He’s there with Barcelona’s Sergio Busquets with both of these combative midfielders doing their team’s dirty work. Players like these two make football look ever so easy. Coincidently, both of these players were lucky enough – privileged to a great extent as well – to be working with a tactician such as Pep Guardiola who polished their qualities and transformed them into world-class midfielders they are today.
Midfielders play an important role in Guardiola’s tiki-taka playing style. With flamboyant stars in Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva, Raheem Sterling or Leroy Sane, pushing forward at all times, it’s Fernandinho’s task to keep things tight defensively.
The Brazilian has been impeccable during the 2018/19 campaign thus far and his importance to Guardiola’s side was best seen during Christmas when City suffered back-to-back defeats to Crystal Palace and Leicester City, played without Fernandinho.
His fitness and tireless running into challenges seem to be crucial to the Citizens’ title chase and with him not getting any younger at 34, Pep Guardiola is already thinking about the replacement. The Spaniard has maintained his stance that City will not be entering the transfer market this winter, but reorganization is at sight for the summer window.
With that in mind, here is a list of top 5 choices Guardiola will consider as Fernandinho replacement(s):
Growing reports found in the British press insist that Wolves’ Portuguese midfielder Ruben Neves has been identified as the primary transfer target for City and the No.1 long-term replacement idea for Fernandinho.
Guardiola heaped praise on the Portuguese ahead of their Monday meeting at Etihad, claiming that Neves “is an excellent player”. His role in a system involving two holding midfielders Wolves play with is slightly different to the one Guardiola uses at City, but his overall attributes would be more than welcome at the Etihad.
The Portuguese has been cited with a £100 transfer fee Guardiola would be required to fork out, but the Spaniard is well aware there are many other options available.
Julian Weigl/Frenkie De Jong
Some of those alternate options regarded as the top two are definitely Julian Weigl and Frenkie de Jong.
The 23-year-old Borussia Dortmund midfielder boasts well over 170 appearances for his current club. The 2018/19 season saw his playing time get significantly limited and PSG (but also City) are keeping a close eye.
The BVB maintained their stance Weigl will not be sold during January but a lucrative offer is said to be in the making in Paris and City could easily be left shorthanded. This is where Frenkie De Jong comes into play as a star PSG are attempting to wrap up. It is expected that French champions will not be able to get both of the players and if any of them moves to Ligue 1 during January, the other one could easily end up in Manchester in the summer.
The German international (slightly more so than the Dutch sensation who is said to have given his nod to PSG) is still far away from moving to Paris and Guardiola will undoubtedly keep a close watch on him. Weigl is a different player compared to Fernandinho, but his intelligent positioning – similar to Busquets’ – would make him quite an asset for any side.
The 21-year-old French international is coming off from a successful year. Ever since the World Cup in Russia, Ndombele has been making plenty of waves thanks to impressive showings in the Champions League with Lyon.
Manchester City boss was given the opportunity to see Ndombele in action during Lyon’s 2-1 win at the Etihad and it’s fair to say Guardiola will keep the youngster in his notebook.
Lyon are said to be demanding a £75 million for Ndombele for which Manchester City will get plenty of competition by the likes of Manchester United, Tottenham, Barcelona and Real Madrid. All of these clubs are said to be keeping a close eye on the Lyon midfielder.
Another Lyon player, the 20-year-old Houssem Aouar has also been a player to earn special praise from Pep Guardiola.
RMC in France have reported recently that Guardiola will be willing to go up to £50 million or so to bring the youngster to Etihad and bolster his midfielder ranks. The France Under-21 international is widely regarded as one of the most exciting midfield talents in Europe.
Composed in possession and impressive in his defensive responsibilities, Aouar has been making plenty of impact this season.
The Atletico Madrid defensive midfielder Thomas Partey might be the least exciting name on the list here but is definitely a player Pep Guardiola will consider on par with the ones you read about above.
The reigning Premier League champions are said to have already enquired about Partey who’s been pushed out of the first team at Atletico Madrid by Rodri. As an Atletico Madrid youth product who earned his place in Diego Simeone’s team after loan spells with Mallorca and Almeria, the 25-year-old Ghana international is a physical force who is rather direct in his play.
Partey is a natural defensive midfielder – more than any other name on the list – and might be the most similar of all of these suggestions to Fernandinho. What Guardiola seems to be looking for is an influential midfielder who has the calibre of recovering possession and blocking the opponents from launching counters.
Being a player with all of these attributes and an impressive aerial force as well makes Partey another great option to consider.
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