After a rather difficult season, these five defenders could help Guardiola to get back on track.
It has been a difficult season for Manchester City. A second-place finish would be considered a success by most clubs, but the high standards that Pep Guardiola & co. have set for themselves over the past couple of years mean that there will certainly be disappointment with how things have panned out this term.
While Manchester City have defended their League Cup crown successfully and remain in the hunt for the FA Cup and the Champions League, their Premier League campaign has been the biggest source of disappointment. Indeed, the Citizens find themselves a whopping 25 points behind Liverpool in the Premier League table and will yield the title to the Reds once the league returns to action.
One of the major problems behind City’s struggles in the league has been their inconsistent defence. Guardiola, for a majority of the season, has worked without his best defender, Aymeric Laporte, due to injuries, while John Stones too has faced fitness problems. When fit, the Englishman hasn’t always inspired confidence either.
Nicolas Otamendi’s attitude is worth praising, but every time he takes the field, a costly error is almost inevitable. Fernandinho has performed admirably as a makeshift centre-back, but with his advancing age, the Brazilian cannot be relied upon week in week out moving forward as Manchester City look to assert themselves as the most dominant force in England next term.
To that end, here are five centre-backs that the Sky Blues should look to sign in order to boost their defensive options ahead of next season.
Caglar Soyuncu (Leicester City)
The 23-year-old has been a revelation in his second season with Leicester City, establishing himself as one of the most reliable centre-backs in the Premier League this season.
Having signed for the Foxes in 2018, it wasn’t until 2019-20 that Soyuncu got a proper run in the first-team, thanks to the departure of Harry Maguire last summer.
Soyuncu has featured in all but one of Leicester’s Premier League games this term, helping the Foxes to the third-best defensive record in the competition. Moreover, the 23-year-old was integral to Turkey’s UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying campaign, leading them to the best defensive record in the qualifiers.
An imposing presence on the field and comfortable with the ball at his feet, Soyuncu has shown he can cut it out at the big stage, making him a viable target for Manchester City.
Milan Skriniar (Inter Milan)
One of the most coveted defenders across Europe, 25-year-old Milan Skriniar would be a great addition to the Manchester City backline in the summer.
Skriniar joined Inter Milan from fellow Serie A outfit Sampdoria in the summer of 2017 and has since become a pivotal member of the Nerazzurri. The Slovenian international has grown from strength to strength with each passing season and has been integral to Inter’s title challenge under Antonio Conte this season.
Skriniar, so far this season, has featured 32 times in all competitions, including in 24 of Inter’s 25 Serie A matches. The 25-year-old's influence can be seen from the fact that his team has conceded just 24 goals in the league so far – the second-best defensive record in the competition.
Comfortable in a back-three system or a two-man central defensive partnership, Skriniar has shown good adaptability and backs it up with his defensive nous and ball-playing abilities.
Kalidou Koulibaly (Napoli)
Another centre-back from Serie A who is widely regarded as one of the best in his position currently, Kalidou Koulibaly could be the ideal player to fill the vacancy left by Vincent Kompany’s departure at Manchester City.
The 28-year-old Senegalese international is in his sixth season with Napoli, having first arrived in 2014 from Belgian outfit Genk. A key member of the Partenopei, Koulibaly played a critical role as they pushed Juventus in the Serie A title race in the past few years.
Injuries have meant that Koulibaly has had to spend a lot of time on the sidelines this term and that has had a negative impact on Napoli’s season as well. The 28-year-old has made just 15 Serie A appearances this season.
Despite his recent injury issues, Koulibaly is a reliable option to fall back upon. A leader on the field and in the dressing room, the Senegalese defender’s presence would help Manchester City to a greater extent, while also making them less prone to mistakes in set-piece situations.
Nathan Ake (Bournemouth)
Not the biggest name on the list, but a worthy one nevertheless, Bournemouth’s Nathan Ake could be a potential wildcard signing for Manchester City next summer.
The 25-year-old Netherlands international signed for the Cherries from Chelsea in the summer of 2017 and hasn’t looked back since. Eddie Howe’s side have mired in the Premier League mid-table year after year, but Ake has stood out as one of the most consistent performers in the English top-flight.
Injuries have derailed his campaign somewhat in 2019-20, but Ake is someone who has proven himself capable of handling the pressure of Premier League football. Physically imposing, the 11-time capped Netherlands international is also comfortable carrying the ball out from the back and can double up as a left-back as well, providing Guardiola with an added option in the defence.
With Bournemouth staring at the possibility of relegation this term, they could be forced into cashing in on Ake in the summer. And Manchester City should definitely explore the possibility of signing the former Chelsea academy ace.
Samuel Umtiti (Barcelona)
Perhaps a left-field choice, considering that he is no longer the first-choice defender at his own club. But, Samuel Umtiti’s quality and experience could prove to be worth their weight in gold for a Manchester City backline that has been found wanting this term.
Snapped up by Barcelona from Olympique Lyon in 2016, Umtiti soon became Gerard Pique’s undisputed partner at the heart of the Catalans’ defence. However, his troublesome knee issue, coupled with compatriot Clement Lenglet’s rise to prominence has seen the 26-year-old drop down the pecking order over the past year and a half.
Umtiti has been bothered by a knee injury this season as well, restricting him to just 16 appearances in all competitions. However, one cannot overlook the role he played in France’s World Cup triumph in 2018 and the experience he possesses while playing at the elite level for years.
Barcelona are said to be open to selling Umtiti this summer. And given his ball-playing abilities, the Frenchman would be an ideal fit into Guardiola’s team, making him an appealing prospect for Manchester City.