Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Where Ousmane Dembele fits into Guardiola's revolution

The Borussia Dortmund winger is a target for Manchester City this summer, but the Blues want to strengthen the defence before making a decision Manchester City are interested in signing Borussia Dortmund winger Ousmane Dembele this summer, but a formal approach depends heavily on how their transfer plans develop in the coming weeks.
Reports in France on Monday evening claimed that Dembele had already visited Manchester and even arranged to have dinner with City boss Pep Guardiola.
Sources close to the Catalan have insisted that he is still on holiday and, therefore, would not have been able to meet Dembele, but it was confirmed to Goal that the Frenchman is one of the players on a list of targets agreed by the club's board earlier this year.
However, the 20-year-old is not considered a priority target and, contrary to reports, a move is nowhere near completion.As previously reported by Goal, City could sign nine new players this summer and have effectively divided their list of options into two sections: priorities and variables. Dembele belongs to the latter list, alongside his France team-mate Kylian Mbappe.
If City are to land their priorities - four full-backs and Alexis, in addition to Bernardo Silva and Ederson, who have already signed - plus a centre-back, that would leave room for one more arrival.
With City now very likely to acquire a central defender this summer, the ninth signing, should it happen, would be a forward.
The Blues have long been admirers of Mbappe and had been willing to bring him to the club alongside Alexis ahead of the 2017-18 season, but senior sources currently believe their chances of doing so are slim.
The 18-year-old is weighing up a new contract at Monaco as well as a serious offer from Real Madrid, who are favourites to sign him despite interest from other big European clubs.
City would retain their interest in Mbappe and could launch a fresh bid next summer if he were to stay in France for one more season, but Dembele has emerged as an alternative option for the upcoming campaign.
Guardiola and key members of his technical staff are huge admirers of the wideman, who only joined Dortmund last May.Barcelona are also interested but the Catalans' transfer plans are more convoluted than City's and significantly less advanced, with moves for their main targets, Hector Bellerin and Marco Verratti, far from completion.
Furthermore, Dortmund have developed something of a reputation as tough negotiators and, in the face of interest from Barca, insisted last week that the former Rennes winger would not be going anywhere.
City were put off by Dortmund's asking price when they attempted to sign Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang 12 months ago, though Guardiola regrets last summer's relative lack of investment and has instructed his director of football, Txiki Begiristain, to be more ruthless this time around.Guardiola is said to be delighted with Begiristain's efforts so far, with two priority targets already secured and more expected to follow shortly, and the club's determination to get their men could see them make a more concerted push for Dembele than they made for Aubameyang.
Indeed, those familiar with City's transfer dealings do not believe Dortmund would say no to a big-money offer. Having initially been dissuaded by Monaco's asking price, it is believed City would pay upwards of £100m for Mbappe if the opportunity arose. 
If City's plans do work out as expected and there is that kind of money left for an attacking player, they would be open to signing Dembele even if Dortmund were to insist on a fee of around £70m.
However, for now, City are not in a position to plan that far ahead and are focusing on their priority targets. That has always been their approach to this window and having already snapped up goalkeeper Ederson and attacking midfielder Bernardo Silva, Begiristain is focusing on reinforcing the defence.
Alexis Sanchez is the top overall target this summer and City remain confident, as they have been for several months, that he will eventually sign, even if it takes until August to prise him from Arsenal.
In the meantime, they are hopeful of bringing in a glut of new defenders. Having previously wanted to secure Tottenham's Kyle Walker and Monaco's Benjamin Mendy before moving on to other full-back targets, City have been able to wrap up a deal for Juventus' Dani Alves and official confirmation is expected shortly.
Despite the demands of the respective selling clubs, sources close to City's decision makers insist the original plan - which includes priorities Walker, Mendy and Alexis - is coming along well.
City want four full-backs and are also interested in Southampton's Ryan Bertrand, and though he has been identified as a very capable option with vast Premier League experience and is also homegrown, he is not considered one of City's absolute priorities.Guardiola has told friends that he believes Begiristain will provide the foundations of a team which can rival his former clubs, Barcelona and Bayern Munich, and other European giants in terms of quality and squad depth.
The targets deemed capable of making the biggest difference next season are Ederson, Alves, Walker, Mendy, Alexis and the recently identified, but still unknown, centre-back.
Several options for the role had previously been regarded as non-priority options but, given the variable nature of City's business, it is believed the club are now very likely to bring a new, world-class central defender to the Etihad Stadium.Virgil van Dijk had been regarded as the top target for that role if and when City pressed ahead with their plans for a centre-back, but after it was made clear that he preferred a switch to Liverpool, the Blues decided to look elsewhere, whether the Merseysiders' interest in the Dutchman is dead or not.
It is also understood there will be no moves for Juventus' Leonardo Bonucci, Athletic Club's Aymeric Laporte or Bayern Munich's Javi Martinez.
There are also no plans to bring in a central midfielder, meaning rumours of an impending bid for Sporting's William Carvalho are wide of the mark.
City believe that once their priority targets are in the bag they will have a squad capable of challenging on all fronts, and only then will they take stock of their situation and weigh up whether to make a final move for the likes of Mbappe and Dembele - if they are still available options - as an additional statement of intent.
Another important factor in City's decision-making will be the amount of money recouped through player sales. The Blues hope to raise £100m to help offset a planned outlay of between £250m-£275m on their first eight targets.That means any move for Mbappe or Dembele, as the ninth potential signing, could push the club's net spend over £250m, unless an unexpected, big-money sale is sanctioned.


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