Sir Alex Ferguson once remarked that football worked in cycles – this coming after he saw his Manchester United side thoroughly outclassed 3-1 by Barcelona in the 2011 Champions League final.
Back then one Pep Guardiola side was reaching its peak, and still continues to dominate today, while the current Bayern Munich manager’s future side is starting to slip away from theirs and the time has now come for a change and to say goodbye to some club legends and refresh the cycle. Manchester City’s seasons has stuttered and faltered more and more as this campaign has gone on. Although many still have them as favourites it’s clear that the squad needs more than just tweaking.
With Guardiola’s arrival imminent the timing seems perfect for City to usher in a new era and go from domestic contenders to European powerhouses. The Manchester City owners look to be slowly starting to look towards the new superstars of the club with the addition of Raheem Sterling and Kevin De Bryune but Guardiola and the City hierarchy will have big decisions to make regarding the Yaya Toure, David Silva, Pablo Zabaleta and captain Vincent Kompany – the backbone of Manchester City’s title winning teams. Forget Sergio Aguero – he is going nowhere.
Kompany and Zabaleta have been at the club the longest as they came to Manchester during the 2008/09 transfer window and are the only survivors from the Mark Hughes reign which kick started the City revolution. Kompany has become more of a liability in recent years and have left City looking shaky at the back. The same theory always surfaces that when fit he solidifies their back line, but that “when fit” status is becoming few and far between. Now at the age of 29 and with his history of calf and hamstring injuries his best days may be behind him but he could still turn a very healthy profit in the transfer market. The days of a true captain’s, performance such as the one he turned in when he scored the only goal in a 1-0 win over Manchester United in a highly charged derby in the middle of a full throttle title race, are becoming more faded as the weeks go by. Kompany could still play a role for City but with his injury problems it would be more squad players less mainstay in the sky blue back line.
Zabaleta by contrast does not suffer from the same injury problems that his club captain does but father time is catching up to the Argentine defender. Full backs over 30-years-old are not favoured with their pace on the decline and inability to get up and down the pitch, attacking and defending, with the same exuberance they once did. Zabaleta possesses one of the best deliveries from the right hand side in the Premier League and has bombed back and forth giving the left hand sides of the opposition nightmares with his whippet like stamina and bulldog like tenacity. The Argentinean can still do just that but at a much slower rate and with the league seemingly getting quicker in the wide areas by the year there can be no room for slow full backs.
Both Kompany and Zabaleta have been great servants to the club but with high class young defenders now making their mark in world football: Raphael Varane, Aymelic Laporte and John Stones to name a few the time may be right to let the pair go. Of course Guardiola may choose to keep a few to help him translate his message to the rest of the squad. However, Guardiola has shown a ruthlessness to remove players who are a shadow of their former selves – just as he did with Bastian Schweinsteiger after he claimed the German World Cup winner could no longer stay fit enough. A new era in the blue half of Manchester looms.
The most interesting and perhaps most explosive decision will be made over Toure. Guardiola and the powerful Ivorian have a chequered past, their clash of personalities was sighted as one of the main reasons he swapped the Nou Camp for The Etihad Stadium in the summer of 2010. Toure has been unstoppable in City’s two title winning seasons but since their last triumph in 2014 Toure has been more responsible for costing his side points rather than earning them. Take another look at last week’s defeat to Tottenham, it was the former Barcelona man that lost possession and then left a gaping hole for Erik Lamela to run into – teeing up the winner from Christian Eriksen. Toure has cut a picture of frustration and absolute awe in his six years in England, when he wants to he can rip a team apart with ease and on his best day looks every bit as good as Patrick Vieira did when in his prime at Arsenal. Now at 32 the rangy Ivorian’s best days may be behind him and the City chiefs could look to move him along while they can still get a respectable transfer fee for him. Guradiola may look to offload his former player as soon as possible to avoid possible friction – it’s well documented that the Bayern boss does not deal well with confrontation – Paul Pogba could fill the mould of Toure in both physical size and skill set.
One wildcard in the whole matter is David Silva – another member of the 2010 transfer class to come to Manchester City. Silva is so often the catalyst to get Aguero and company rolling but his style of play may not exactly fit that of his soon to be manager. The Spanish wizard looks every bit as capable of adapting to the new regime that will come in summer but his ability to tire coupled with Guradiola’s demand that his teams press relentlessly may seem his playing time slide considerably. Silva has floated his way between the lines of Premier League defences for six years and in the process has floated his way into the heart of every City – and general football fan’s – hearts. A true bargain in 2010 at £24m, when compared to 24-year-old number 10’s go for in the current climate it really is a snip. Although just 30-years-old Pep may look to bring in a younger more energetic playmaker who close down as well as play the defence splitting pass.
The former Barcelona boss may not sell any of the true spine of the City team and other outgoings are very likely with fringe players likely to be sold to fund moves for some of Europe’s elite. The new evolution of Manchester City is on the horizon and it seems more likely than ever that some of their players, who have made themselves City and Premier League legends, may have to move away and pass the torch to the new wave of Citizens.