Manchester City host Aston Villa on the final game of the campaign knowing that victory will result in The Blues lifting yet another Premier League crown, their fourth in five years. A team that Pep Guardiola has carefully constructed in the six years since his arrival has racked up eight domestic trophies and has dominated the Premier League. They’ve won 425 points and scored 472 goals in the process, during the Spaniard's time in Manchester. But at the end of next season, a major portion of Pep’s team will be out of contract, and the club must decide whether to cash in this summer, offer new deals, or let the players leave for free at the end of the next campaign, just as they have done this season with Fernandinho. Online bookmakers such as William Hill, who offer free bets on Premier League football, still make City the favourites to win this year's title race, but which of these four out of contract stars will be at the Etihad next season to potentially defend the trophy?
Unbelievably, Raheem Sterling is still only 27 years old. It feels like England’s superstar winger has been playing at the top level for eternity. When his contract expires next summer, it will be a decade since he burst onto the scene with Liverpool at the start of their unsuccessful title bid in 2013/14. He will be 28 when his contract expires, crucially still on the right side of 30. You feel that the Englishman still has something to offer Manchester City, despite not being the important cog in Pep’s juggernaut that he has been in recent years.
Sterling has managed to fight his way back into The Blues’ first team in recent weeks and has once again provided a fine tally of 17 goals and 8 assists this campaign, taking his total goal count to a mighty 131 in 338 games since his £50m move from Anfield seven years ago. With numbers like that, it’s no wonder that clubs such as Arsenal and Tottenham have been linked with him in recent weeks, although he is thought to prefer a move to one of Europe’s elite, with both Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona rumoured to be interested.
The former QPR trainee is still as important for the national team as ever. Manager Gareth Southgate trusts him impeccably and that faith was rewarded last summer, as Sterling bagged three goals in England’s march to the final. With or without game time next season, he can expect to be on the plane to Qatar this winter.
Another man rumoured to be headed to the Emirates next season is Brazilian striker Gabriel Jesus. It’s no secret that City’s current number nine hasn’t featured as much as he would have liked during his time in Manchester. And with the former Palmeiras man now aged 25 and approaching his peak, he will be wanting to be assured of an important place in any club's plans, be that here or at Arsenal. The Mirror also recently reported that he’s “on board” with Mikel Arteta’s project in North London. Still, the recent 2-0 away defeat at Newcastle - making Champions League football highly unlikely for The Gunners next season - may make the Brazilian change his mind.
This season it seemed that Jesus’ time in Manchester was slowly coming to an end, but a surprising inclusion into Pep’s squad for the home crunch clash against Liverpool at the start of April has resulted in five goals in five games following. He may have done enough to earn a place in City's squad for next season and a new contract beyond 2023 may also follow.
His plane ticket to Qatar doesn’t seem to be as assured as Sterling’s. He was left out of the squad selection for the games against Chile and Bolivia in March. To add to his international woes, he hasn’t scored a goal for the Seleção since the Copa America final in 2019, almost three years ago. His recent upturn form may have caught manager Tite’s eye, but he will need regular game time next season if he is to guarantee his place at the World Cup.
Has there been a more consistent performer in recent years than Ilkay Gündogan? The German midfield maestro has been a revelation since his arrival from Borussia Dortmund for a bargain of £20m. He was City’s top scorer last season and has featured 42 times this season, chipping in with another eight goals on the march to a fourth title in five years.
Despite an injury-hit first campaign, the German has really kicked on, featuring over 250 times at the Etihad, and has been a crucial cog in Pep’s midfield for half a decade. The one issue for Gündogan is his age. He will be 32 by the time his contract expires next summer, and they may persuade the powers that be to look for a younger replacement in central midfield. Believe it or not, once again Arsenal are the favourites to snap up the playmaker supreme, and one would think he would be an important piece of the Arteta’s jigsaw.
Should Gündogan wish to stay in the North-West, one glimmer of hope for him would be David Silva. The Spaniard didn’t leave the Etihad until he was just turned 34, which may prompt Pep Guardiola and co. to offer the midfielder one more deal.
Manchester City’s final superstar out of contract next summer is Riyad Mahrez. I’m not sure any Blue thought that the Algerian winger would display the quality he has done in the four years since his record-breaking £60m move from Leicester. His strike rate is almost one in three, bagging 63 goals in 188 appearances from the right-wing, and he has gone from strength to strength under Pep Guardiola.
The starman in Leicester’s shocking run to the title six years ago will be 32 next summer, and chances are the upcoming campaign will be his last at Eastlands. Despite his missed penalty in the recent 2-2 draw at West Ham, Mahrez is still beloved at City, and will be sorely missed should he move on, this summer or next.