Manchester City have been left in shock by Real Madrid’s valuation of Mateo Kovacic, who has become the primary target for Pep Guardiola after missing out on Jorginho. Madrid are demanding a whopping £80 million fee for the 24-year-old. Kovacic was once dubbed as the ‘next Andrea Pirlo’ when he was establishing himself at the Inter Milan. The 21-year-old had immense passing abilities, great vision, and a strong maturity for his age.
Croatia appeared gifted to have a player of such qualities, but the World Cup 2018 presented a different picture with the midfielder starting just one game in Russia. Even though Croatia reached the finals of the World Cup, Kovacic’s contribution was almost non-existent. A move cannot come soon enough for Kovacic, but there is a feeling that he is being priced out of a move to the Etihad stadium.
In the last three seasons with Madrid, Kovacic has started just 37 league games and he has managed just one goal in this period. The midfielder is clearly suffering from a huge dip in confidence and it remains to be seen if the arrival of Julen Lopetegui makes an improvement.
City have already started improving on the title-winning squad from last season. Riyad Mahrez has arrived from Leicester City for a club-record transfer fee of £60 million. However, a deep-lying playmaker may be of greater significance for the club – Yaya Toure has just left City, while the club also need to quickly replace the ageing Fernandinho. Guardiola may have been keen on completing most of the acquisitions before the team flies out for the pre-season tour. Manchester City are involved in a pre-season tour of the United States and there is very little time before the new Premier League campaign kicks off on August 12. City take on Arsenal in what promises to be an epic Premier League opener.
Jorginho was easily the first choice for City, and negotiations for the 26-year-old went on for the last couple of weeks. However, the entry of Chelsea into the picture brought about major disruption to the plans and City are having to start all over again with regards to Kovacic. Since the transfer window closes much earlier than usual, it appears that Madrid are looking to profit from City’s urgency.
The Croat has a contract with Real Madrid only until the summer of 2021. This places the club in a precarious position, as they may be able to receive the best possible transfer fee only now. The asking price of £80 million is unlikely to be met by many clubs. Madrid may be ready to settle for a price of around £60 million and City will be keen on signing him at this price.
City were able to run away with the Premier League title last season, but things are expected to get a tough in the upcoming campaign. Chelsea are expected to be in the reckoning after a managerial change, while Manchester United will be desperate to improve even further under Jose Mourinho. Liverpool may have once again lost some key players but the presence of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane makes them formidable. Arsenal are finally away from the shadows of Arsene Wenger and Unai Emery has been backed quite significantly in the transfer market.
Even then, the blues are rated as significant favourites by Betway to win the Premier League. City are at 8/11 to retain the title.
Guardiola is doing the right thing of preventing staleness within the squad. Bringing in players like Mateo Kovacic will keep the existing members of the squad on their toes. Even though City already have a lot of competition for places, there would be place for a Kovacic as the team will once again be fighting on four fronts. There is a likelihood of City pulling out of the race to sign Kovacic – if Real Madrid do not drop their valuation, as Guardiola has the potential to deploy Fabian Delph or Ilkay Gündogan in the role of a deep lying playmaker. Despite the immense talent within Kovacic, City are unlikely to splurge on the midfielder in a market governed by financial fair play regulations.