Pep Guardiola has admitted Manchester City face a serious battle trying to find the next Fernandinho amid fears of losing out to Barcelona for Ajax midfielder Frenkie De Jong.
The City manager has also ruled out any prospect of paying £100 million for Wolverhampton Wanderers’ Ruben Neves and told Kevin De Bruyne that if he “has a problem he knows where I am” after the Belgium midfielder was unhappy about being substituted less than an hour into the 9-0 win over Burton Albion last week.
City have been chasing a long-term replacement for Fernandinho who can also provide quality short-term cover for the Brazil holding midfielder for over a year and lost out to Chelsea for Jorginho last summer.
Fernandinho has been in outstanding form this season and his importance was underlined over Christmas when City lost back-to-back Premier League games to Crystal Palace and Leicester City without the midfielder, whose fitness is crucial to their title challenge.
Guardiola has maintained that City will not enter the transfer market this month but, with Fernandinho turning 34 in May, there is a recognition that the champions need to buy in his position.
City are prepared to pay about £70 million all told for De Jong but face serious competition from front-runners Barcelona and Paris St-Germain for the 21-year-old Netherlands midfielder.
They also want another midfielder in addition to De Jong but Guardiola is adamant that they have no intention of meeting Wolves’s £100 million valuation of Neves ahead of Monday’s game at home to the Midlands club.
“He [Neves] is an excellent player – it involves playing with two holding midfielders, not just one – but he’s an excellent player,” the City manager said. “But a month ago, I started reading, ‘Ruben Neves, £100 million’ – that is not going to happen, we are not going to pay £100 million for a holding midfielder.
“It’s not easy to find the specific quality of the players [who can play holding midfield]. Maybe there aren’t many but there are players who can play in that role. Specifically Fernandinho’s role, it’s so difficult to find.
“He knows the Premier League, he knows everything and that’s so important. But, of course, for the next season it’s an important target to find. He’ll be 34 and he cannot play every few days.”
Guardiola would not be drawn specifically on City’s interest in De Jong but admitted it is rare to beat Barcelona to a signing.
“If you are the only one who wants a player it’s easy but if you want one and many, many clubs want him it’s more complicated, especially if it’s [Real] Madrid or Barcelona [who also want him],” Guardiola said. “Normally when you are involved with Madrid and Barcelona, you are going to lose. You have to be quicker and more efficient. It will more expensive for everybody and it is what it is.
“But I’m not talking about the case of the Ajax player because he is an Ajax player. There are many players – not just one if doesn’t happen. When many teams want a player it’s more complicated.
“Sometimes it doesn’t depend on us. You have to pay the club, pay the family and talk with the player, and with the agents, it’s nuts. It’s really complicated.”
De Bruyne had walked straight down the tunnel against Burton when he was substituted after 57 minutes of the first leg of City’s Carabao Cup semi-final thrashing of the League One side. The Belgian wanted to play for longer after spending the majority of the season on the sidelines but Guardiola wants to handle his comeback carefully following successive knee injuries.
“I don’t know what happened, he [De Bruyne] didn’t speak to me, so I don’t know what happened,” Guardiola said. “If he has a problem he knows where I am. I didn’t speak with him so that one time I cannot say what he thinks because I don’t know.”
*Photo: Pep Guardiola
*Source: The Telegraph