If City only sign one player this summer, should it be one of these four?
Manchester City's lack of movement in this summer's transfer window has bewildered onlookers, with the Citizens showing no signs of adding to their ranks. Whether that's because the right player isn't available, or because City feel they don't need any new players this year, it's a dangerous scenario for the Manchester side, who risk resting on their laurels in their attempts to retain the Premier League title. Though they have tricky midfielders, solid destroyers and classy strikers in abundance, there's one type of player in particular that the Citizens lack: the modern winger.
On the rare occasions that City were undone last season, the opposition tended to congest the midfield and hit them on the counter-attack, with the Manchester side's tendency to play through the middle exploited, which was particularly problematic when David Silva experienced a dip in form. With a top class modern winger, that becomes less of a problem, as play is stretched by the wide player forcing the opponent to track his runs close to the byline, opening up space for midfield runs into the box and giving opponents a dilemma about where to focus their defensive efforts.
City's pursuit of Alexis Sanchez last season suggests that Roberto Mancini was aware of this issue, though after losing out to Barcelona over the Chilean, the Italian coach seemingly couldn't find an adequate alternative. Should City find a player of a similar stature, they would make a significant stride towards evolving beyond their challengers next season. Here's our pick of some potential byline huggers to add to the Etihad squad...
Name: Cristian Tello
20-year-old Cristian Tello burst on to the scene with Barcelona last season, rocketing from their B team to the senior squad by the time Christmas had passed. Injuries to the likes of David Villa, Ibrahim Afellay and Alexis Sanchez opened up a position in the Barca side for the youngster and, for the most part, he grabbed the bull by the horns, with a particular highlight being a brace against Bayer Leverkusen in 7-1 Champions League drubbing. He was even in the starting line-up for Barcelona's league-decider against Real Madrid, and certainly doesn't lack confidence, despite being surrounded by stars. With the aforementioned injured players returning this season however, as well as fellow youngster Isaac Cuenca moving higher up the Nou Camp pecking order, the attacker has been relegated to Barca's B team for the foreseeable future.
Any team willing to offer the right money may find there's an opportunity to nab the talented winger, therefore, and City are certainly capable of making Barcelona an offer they can't refuse. Tello brings pace, cockiness, trickery and finishing; with the right development, he could mature into a top-class player. Barcelona need funds to strengthen in defensive areas, so City could do a lot worse than make a cheeky offer for the Spanish U21 international.
Name: Jesus Navas
Sevilla man Jesus Navas made a decisive impact when called into action for Spain at Euro 2012, with the winger being tasked with exactly what City need from a wide man: stretching a stubborn opposition. Navas did exactly that in Spain's tight 1-0 victory over Croatia, taking on players with his blistering pace and giving them something new to think about, eventually scoring the only goal of the game. Aside from his movement, Navas can cross a ball with deadly accuracy and has added goals to his attributes in recent years. With 12 assists to his name in the Spanish league last year, Navas created more goals than any other player outside of Barcelona and Real Madrid, so the prospect of him linking with the talents of David Silva, Yaya Toure and Sergio Aguero is mouth-watering. Having spent his entire professional career at Sevilla, his loyalties could perhaps be tested by the opportunity to compete for a major title elsewhere. With a contract running until 2015 he could be costly, but with World Cup and European Championship winner's medals under his belt, he merits the price.
Name: Mathieu Valbuena
Though less of a winger in the traditional sense than the two players above, Marseille's Mathieu Valbuena loves to occupy wide spaces when receiving the ball, often using the wing to create goal-scoring opportunities through his intelligent movement and brilliant passing. It's confusing for opponents and often more difficult to defend against than a traditional midfield playmaker, so when the Frenchman is at his best Marseille are also at their most productive. Like Tello and Navas he's explosive on the ball and also a far better dribbler, with the added bonus of being more versatile across the midfield. Valbuena doesn't shirk defensive responsibilities either and his tireless desire to win the ball back would fit in well in the Premier League.
Name: Nicolas Gaitan
Nicolas Gaitan was lethal for Benfica against Manchester United in the 2011/12 Champions League group stages and the attacker has been heavily linked with Old Trafford this year. Like Valbuena, Gaitan can occupy sever positions across the middle of the park, but it's when he is in space out wide that he's most difficult to nullify. The Benfica man loves hugging the line, then undoing opponents in an instant with a brilliant piece of skill. He's also an excellent crosser of the ball and scores the occasional goal with his strong left-foot. His low centre of mass and stocky stature make him difficult to disposes, and he has shown ingenious flashes of creativity in the past, including laying off the ball with his back on one occasion! It's thought that he'd love the chance to play in the Premier League, so why not give him it at City?
City supporters, would any of the above players add to your team, or are you confident of retaining the Premier League title with the current crop? Comment below...