Pep Guardiola says Manchester City will not pay £100m for Ruben Neves or any other central midfielder to provide cover and competition for Fernandinho. Much has been made of Man City needing another player to fill in for the 33-year-old Brazilian, who will be 34 at the end of this season. But Guardiola has ruled out paying over the odds, and played down the money City spend.
When asked if Neves is the type of player Man City need, Guardiola said: “He’s an excellent player but there are many clubs in the world, many holding midfielders in the world, and most of them can play here. That’s not the point.
“Most of them are under contracts. A month ago, I started reading – ‘Rúben Neves, £100m’. That is not going to happen, we are not going to pay £100m for a holding midfielder. Of course, in all departments in the club, we have in every position four or five or six options – depending on age, what we believe and, of course, the price.
“The most expensive one was Riyad [Mahrez, £60m last summer] and he earns far away from what the top teams pay. Our wage bill for the players is eighth or ninth or 10th in Europe, so there are eight or nine clubs where the wages are higher than Manchester City pay.
“We try to be stable in everything. When we spent a lot [two summers ago] – it was because the team was old – it was an average 30-31 years old and that’s why we did it. But we cannot do it every season. We have a limit and cannot spend more so that’s why we need to be careful with the players and try next season to see what we can do to improve.”
Ilkay Gundogan is the man often trusted with filling in when Fernandinho is left out, but the German international’s contract is up at the end of next season. “He knows what we want [regarding his long-term future] – it’s in our hands,” Guardiola added.
“Gündogan played the last two games like a holding midfielder [against Rotherham United and Burton Albion], he had more space than usual – but he was so clever. He made an incredible assist and a lot of passes before the finish. His quality is incredible, we knew that.
“Unfortunately, the first season he had a long injury, like [Benjamin] Mendy last season – and when he’s fit, he’s an incredible player. He can play that holding midfield role, he has the quality and the vision to pass. When he’s close to the box, he arrives in the right tempo and the right moment to score a goal. He’s a fantastic player.”
If Man City’s wage bill really is the eighth, ninth or 10th highest in Europe, it would be surprising. But Guardiola has to be believed and taken at face value. They’re sure to add another midfielder at some stage, but at the moment, it looks like they’ll wait until the summer before signing a replacement for Fernandinho.