Over the last two summers Manchester City’s plans in the transfer market have changed. After an initial spending spree in Pep Guardiola’s first two seasons in charge at the Etihad, it’s now a focus on fine-tuning rather than full scale overhaul.
After splashing out sums in the region of £450million in those first two years, City are now focused on the marginal gains when it comes to the transfer window.
The heavy investment has paid dividends across the last couple of seasons, with the Blues securing back-to-back Premier League titles and winning five of the last six main domestic trophies available.
Conquering Europe may be the final frontier for Guardiola and City, but that will not be achieved by another radical spending spree.
Instead the focus for Guardiola and his director of football Txiki Begiristain is on adding competition to the City squad, on making sure every player in the ranks feels the hot breath of a rival on their neck.
That is why a central midfielder to fight with Fernandinho next season and eventually replace the Brazilian is a must this summer, whether it be Atletico Madrid’s Rodri, Marcos Llorente from city rivals Real or Lyon’s impressive Tanguy Ndombele.
With Vincent Kompany leaving and Nicolas Otamendi considering his future it is also why City will look for a new central defender, to keep John Stones and Aymeric Laporte on their toes.
Not allowing players into a comfort zone is key for Guardiola and Begiristain and over the last year or so they’ve both discussed how plans in the transfer market have changed now the initial investment has produced results.
It was a message Begiristain touched on last summer. While other clubs are frantically searching for improvements in the transfer market this summer, City already have a record-breaking squad. It’s minor amendments now for the Blues.
“You don’t need to change 11 players every year. You need to change two or three,” City’s director of football said in an interview with the BBC.
“If you win, you need to bring someone in to create competition. If not, you have to improve some pieces, but the idea stays and the work is there to try and win again.”
There was that phrase ‘competition’ again. City have won this season, and in some style, but that won’t stop Guardiola and his key transfer lieutenant from looking to fine-tune the squad.
After the Champions League group stage draw last season Begiristain said of City’s previous additions of Laporte and Riyad Mahrez: “The idea was to create competition in every position.”
As City’s latest history-making season drew to a close Guardiola discussed his own transfer ambitions for the squad this summer. The Catalan had previously suggested he wanted as many as four new recruits this term, although that number is likely to be reduced when the window does close.
While a central defender or a central midfielder are high on the list, a new full-back would be dependent on departures and a new attacker would likely be a luxury.
But Guardiola explained how he planned to keep standards high in a team that has won 64 of its last 76 Premier League games and competition for places is top of the agenda.
“That is one of the reasons [to sign new players],” he said. “They have to feel it the players and play good or I don’t play. If not they are not consistent for one more season after what we have done in the past two seasons.”