After months of speculation concerning the future of manager Manuel Pellegrini, it would appear as though the Manchester City board has decided to stick with the Chilean, even if it is just a stop gap solution until Pep Guardiola becomes available. Whilst the speculated arrival of the Spaniard next season would mark the start of a transformation of the existing squad, Manchester City are not about to rest on their laurels and will invest heavily once again in their squad this summer. However their approach to the market may be slightly different than in previous years with a focus on home grown players. In the last five seasons, only five out of 26 summer arrivals have been British and of that five only one, Richard Wright remains at the club. In addition to Frank Lampard’s departure back to New York City FC, City has allowed another three home grown players to leave since the end of the season. James Milner joined Liverpool after his contract expired, Dedryck Boyota joined Celtic and Micah Richards who spent last season on loan at Fiorentina was released.
The importance of having home grown players in your squad cannot be understated. In 2010 the Premier League introduced new rules which mandated all clubs in the league to have a minimum of eight home grown players in their squad of 25. The definition of a home grown player is somewhat up for interpretation with any player regardless of their nationality or age considered home grown who has been registered with the club for a continuous period of three years prior to their 21st birthday. This means that City could technically claim that Spanish youth striker Jose Angel Pozo is home grown as the player was signed in early 2012 and has now spent three years at the club. There are other youth players in the Manchester City academy that can help bolster the number of home grown players however this would mean that they would have to be allocated one of the 25 spots in the Manchester City first team roster. With the pressure mounting on Pellegrini to deliver success both at home and in Europe next season, he cannot afford to take a risk on youth players so will enter the summer transfer market with a new objective – to sign home grown players. With only three home grown players at present in their first team – goalkeepers Joe Hart, Richard Wright and French defender Gael Clichy, City need to find five new players to meet the required number.
To be fair they have wasted little time in their pursuit of home grown talent and have been linked with a variety of players over the past few weeks; none more so than Raheem Sterling. The Liverpool winger has, primarily through his agent, insisted that he wants to leave the Anfield club in order to win trophies; something that City can offer him a good chance of doing. To date Liverpool have stuck to their guns rejecting bid after bid from the Manchester club and are rumoured to be holding out for a reported £50m. It looks certain that Sterling will leave Liverpool this summer but for how much exactly is still to be seen. Another player very much on City’s radar is Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshire. The England international who scored a two wonderful screamers against Slovenia last weekend in the 3-2 win has had a difficult past two years in north London with injuries hampering his progression. He is still widely regarded as a talented player who can offer much to any side so City’s interest is not unwarranted. They have yet to formally bid for the player with any move likely to fail given Arsene Wenger’s reluctance to sell. A cheaper and more likely option could be Aston Villa’s Fabian Delph who had a terrific season at the East midlands club despite the turmoil that surrounded their season. His performances earned him an England call up earlier this year and could help him secure his passage to a bigger club with City favourites to land the tireless central midfielder.
Buying talented youth players may also be an option open to Pellegrini. Patrick Roberts is not exactly a name that is widely known but he soon will be. The 19 year old Fulham striker/winger has impressed last season in the Championship, catching the eye of many Premiership scouts along the way. Despite not getting on the score sheet in any of the 20 appearances he made last season, he is viewed as one for the future and is likely to leave Fulham after their failure to escape England’s second tier. Pellegrini is a huge fan of the player and is willing to bid up to £5m for the England under 19 star however Fulham will hold out for double that. He could face a challenge from Liverpool who are also reportedly interested and with Roberts being an avid fan of the Merseyside club, he may face an uphill struggle to convince Roberts to play in blue rather than red next season.
City’s desperation to buy British is starting to show but with cash to burn they should be able to land their targets eventually. Unfortunately the price they will have to pay is likely to be over inflated as most clubs in England are aware of City’s home grown dilemma and the vast financial resources at their disposal. City is seen by many as a cash cow to clubs who will milk them for as much money as possible before releasing their best home grown players to them. City face a race against time to bring in the required additional five home grown players before the end of the summer transfer window or will face heavy sanctions from the Premier League. This will be a pricey summer for City but one that they only have themselves to blame for after five seasons of buying foreign imports instead of home grown players.