The transfer window might have been quieter than expected across the board, but there is never really any expectation around Manchester City at this time of the year, and so it proved again.
City never really do any serious business in January, with the last recruit to come in and make an immediate impact being Aymeric Laporte in 2018.
But they will be active in the summer and, although they do have to work with certain financial constraints — they sold Cole Palmer to Chelsea rather than loaning him to help balance the books — they have money to spend and will be looking to strengthen the squad.
As ever with City, things are finely balanced and certain potential arrivals may only be realised if other players leave.
What did City do in January?
They loaned out Kalvin Phillips, enabling the England international to get back to playing and enjoying football again. Guardiola always praised Phillips for his cheerful disposition and that is certainly how he conducted himself around City, but he did admit he struggled with not playing and the chance to go to West Ham United allows him to show what he can do again in an upwardly mobile side.
There had been the potential for Sergio Gomez to leave, but that calmed down, perhaps related to Valentin Barco moving to Brighton rather than City.
What didn’t they do?
Anything else. Claudio Echeverri signed from River Plate, but the 18-year-old was immediately loaned back for the rest of 2024. At this stage of his development, he is not as likely as Julian Alvarez was to get a shot at the first team any time soon. So while City did make a purchase this month, it has zero immediate impact on the first team.
Echeverri transfer: Similar path to Alvarez but will take longer to reach City’s first XI
How will Pep Guardiola feel about it?
Given Phillips was never really considered a first-team option by Guardiola anyway, there was no urgent need to replace him. It would have been an opportunity for City to bring in somebody who they feel they can rely on, but those options are few and far between in January and, in any case, City have a bit of an issue when it comes to holding midfielders: they do not want to buy a truly top-class holding player who can stand in for Rodri because they intend for him to play the majority of games, leaving the new guy on the bench and potentially unhappy about his playing time.
Within weeks of City signing Phillips, Guardiola suspected he had made a mistake
City would pay top dollar for somebody who can play as an attacking midfielder and a holding midfielder, like Declan Rice and Ilkay Gundogan, but there are not many of those available in January. All things considered, City can effectively carry on as they were before.
What will they need to prioritise this summer?
A midfielder of the above type would be ideal. The issue with Rice was that he wanted to play more in the holding midfield role, which Arsenal offered him, and that helped make up his mind.
It might also be time to find a new full-back, although in the summer Guardiola was happy to stick with the approach from the end of last season, which involved either four centre-backs or three centre-backs plus Kyle Walker, and after many years of waiting for City fans know not to expect a full-back anyway.
More on this year’s January transfer window…
A winger would be welcome, too, although given how many solutions Guardiola can seem to find even when he has a relatively small squad available, it feels like any extra players would be too many.
The chances are that whoever City sign would be able to play in two or three positions at least.
What do we know of their summer transfer plans?
All of that brings us to two players in particular.
Girona winger Savio would be a fairly easy signing to make given he plays for City’s sister club and has spoken about his desire to make the move. “When I signed for the City Group, I had the ultimate role of joining Manchester City,” he said recently. And not least because City are looking into the possibility of making the move happen.
The 19-year-old has played mainly on the left wing this season, but previously for PSV, he has played on both wings and in central attacking areas, too. He is regarded as more of a wide threat by City.
The Athletic’s David Ornstein has also discussed City’s interest in Wolves’ Pedro Neto.
There have been some rumours in Germany that Joshua Kimmich could be an option, too, and although City sources played down the idea of a move for Kimmich in January, The Athletic understands a summer move is a different matter.
Guardiola has traditionally steered away from going back to his former clubs for players, although it is not impossible if they make it clear they want to leave, like Lionel Messi in 2020, and a similar situation is developing with Kimmich.
Compared to Savio, it is seen as a difficult operation to pull off, but the 28-year-old is certainly an option City are exploring. If he were to arrive, it would offer City that flexibility at right-back and in holding midfield.
If Jamal Musiala elects not to sign a new deal in Munich, then that may pique City’s interest, too, but there are other priorities at this very early stage.
Departures are also expected to affect things.
Who is likely to be playing their final months for the club?
Bernardo Silva, possibly. He signed a new contract last summer, with City desperately trying to persuade him to stay at the club, in what was at least the third year in a row of the Portuguese wanting to move on for a new challenge. That contract contains a release clause, though, and that may help him get a move this summer as it at least tells any prospective buyer exactly what they would have to pay. If Bernardo were to go, it would accelerate the need for a midfielder and/or winger.
Other than that, there is only Scott Carson’s contract which is due to expire at the end of the season. He is 38 and, although never plays, is a key member of the dressing room and it would be no surprise if City kept him around for one more year at least.
(Top photos: Getty Images)