Manchester City signing a half-decent centre-back at the beginning of the season may not have halted Liverpool’s procession to the Premier League title but it would’ve made things a hell of a lot closer.
Going forward, City’s standards have remained ludicrously high but at the back they have been been porous. While Aymeric Laporte’s injury was unfortunate, a side of City’s financial might should not be toppled by the absence of just one defender.
Their Champions League ban being overturned has opened the floodgates to a tidal wave of transfer rumours. Some deals seem feasible, some definitely do not – but which of these long list of potential recruits is best suited to life at the Etihad Stadium?
90min analysed the longlist of centre-backs to find out…
9. José Giménez
José Giménez typifies Diego Simeone’s ideal defender for Atletico Madrid. He’s disciplined, rugged and is a bit rubbish at playing out from the back – meaning he’d look out of place in City’s backline.
Also, the Uruguayan is becoming increasingly injury prone and if there’s one thing that Guardiola does not need in his life, it’s another perpetually unavailable centre-back.
His buyout clause is also €120m (£110m), which is… a lot.
Suitability Rating: 2/10
8. Diego Carlos
Sevilla stopper Diego Carlos is a no-nonsense centre-back. The 27-year-old completed the fifth most clearances in La Liga this season and is also imperious in the air.
This type of authoritative defending has been missing at the Etihad Stadium during the 2019/20 campaign, however it seems unlikely that Guardiola will make a move for the Brazilian.
City’s centre-backs often top the charts for passes completed and it is questionable whether the Brazilian (with his pass completion rate of 86%) possesses the required skill set to replicate this.
The late bloomer did, however, make Marca’s team of the year in La Liga, in his first season in Spanish football.
Suitability Rating: 5/10
7. Nathan Ake
There is often value to be found raiding the Premier League’s relegated team and Nathan Aké is a fine example. Leicester were quoted an astonishing £75m for the Dutchman last summer but if Bournemouth’s relegation is confirmed, he could be available for less than half of that.
The Cherries’ defensive record has been shambolic over the past two seasons but as Guardiola often prioritises technique over solidity, Ake could still be in with a shot of securing a move to Manchester.
Saying that, as Aymeric Laporte prefers to play on the left of defence, the former Chelsea man would surely be forced to play on his weaker side which he may find challenging. A right sided centre-back could be a better option.
Ake is also on the shorter side for centre back at 5’11 and has not always looked a cut above at Bournemouth, the way, say, Virgil van dijk did at Southampton.
Suitability Rating: 5/10
6. Dayot Upamecano
Upamecano seemed to have signed for Bayern Munich back in May only for the Bundesliga champions to suspiciously withdraw their offer.
This has opened the door for an avalanche of Premier League interest and with his contract up in 2021, the Frenchman could be snapped up for as little as €40m (£36m).
As a player, Upamecano is quick on the half turn and strong in the air. He also registered just shy of a 90% pass completion rate and finished in the top ten for progressive distance via carries in the league. This shows he has the potential to slot into a City backline where technical attributes are key.
The only real negative is that City may want someone with more top-level experience, rather than another gamble – considering their track record with signing defenders.
5. Ruben Dias
Dias is one of the most in demand, young defenders in world football. He is technically sound while also be adept in the traditional defensive arts.
The 23-year-old is already a regular for Portugal and has racked up close to 200 appearances for Benfica during his still fledgling career.
Despite this, Dias has little experience at the very top level. He has never played in a Champions League knockout game nor a major international tournament. The Nations League does not count, sorry.
However, under Guardiola’s tutelage there’s not doubting that Dias has the potential to go right to the very top.
Suitability Rating: 7.5/10
4. Milan Skriniar
Mobile, aerially dominant and capable of creating attacks from deep, Skriniar is another avenue that City could explore.
The Slovakian’s performance alongside the imperious Stefan de Vrij and others have helped Inter secure the best defensive record in Serie A.
One potential mark against his name could be the fact that he performs best in a back three, which is a formation that Guardiola has rarely deployed in the Premier League. Skriniar has played in a back four before though, so this shouldn’t be too much of an issue.
He’ll cost £70m-odd this summer, the papers say.
Suitability Rating: 8/10
3. Kalidou Koulibaly
Koulibaly has been touted as the answer to so many clubs’ defensive problems, it’s becoming hard to keep track of who he’s being linked with.
For the most part, the hype is deserved. Players who make the art of defending look as easy as Koulibaly are hard to come by, especially when they also tick the boxes for physicality, leadership and ball-playing ability.
His recent fitness struggles are a cause for concern for sure, but prior to this season the Senegal international had not been at all injury prone.
This should reassure City that they are still getting a top quality player, but the 29-year-old’s £65m asking price is still high and there may be better value out there.
Suitability Rating: 8/10
2. Caglar Soyuncu
Leicester centre-back Caglar Soyuncu has stepped into the void left by Harry Maguire’s departure expertly this season.
Though he is occasionally unpredictable, the composed Turkey international has formed a fantastic partnership with the more experienced Jonny Evans this season. City were linked with the pair in January and Soyuncu could prove to be a superb addition.
He would add a much needed dose of nastiness to City’s often accommodating backline and is also technically sound.
Suitability Rating: 8.5/10
1. Raphael Varane
It might be a challenging deal to pull off but Raphael Varane fits all the requirements for City’s new centre-back. The Frenchman is a born winner, having already tasted multiple La Liga and Champions League successes and a World Cup win despite being only 27.
He’d also slot into Guardiola’s style of play seamlessly thanks to his incredible all-round ability. He has registered close to 90% passing accuracy this season and can play his way out of danger thanks to his superb close control.
Varane is exactly what City need to bounce back from a disappointing campaign.
Suitability Rating: 9/10
Edited by Tiyani wa ka Mabasa