Now that July is upon us and the transfer window is officially open, Manchester City ought to be hard at work looking to bolster their ranks. They've already signed two players in Jesus Navas and Fernandinho, but there is still more to be done.
The latter signing addresses a need at the defensive midfield position in the form of a versatile, reliable partner for Yaya Toure. However, the Brazilian is 28 years old featuring alongside the 30-year-old Ivorian and 32-year-old Gareth Barry.
As such, it may be wise to look at further reinforcements at the position, especially a younger option who could be a featured player in the future. While 2012 signings Javi Garcia and Jack Rodwell may fit that mold, neither have shown signs of being that guy.
Garcia was a last-minute signing on a slightly inflated fee, and some spotty form saw him drop in the pecking order. Rodwell, on the other hand, lost much of his season to injury before showing flashes of good play at the end of the season.
It is possible that either of these players could be moved on in favor of a new face as new manager Manuel Pellegrini looks to stamp his authority at his new club. Read on for a sampling of some younger defensive midfield types the Chilean should target.
Stats cited herein provided by WhoScored
Morgan Schneiderlin defending City's Samir Nasri.
Should Pellegrini want to start by looking within his own league, he should look no further than Southampton's Morgan Schneiderlin. The young Frenchman was hugely impressive for the Premier League newcomers last season as they survived the relegation scrap.
B/R's Sam Tighe compared the 23-year-old to Bayern Munich man Javi Martinez, who City targeted some last season before his move to Bavaria. Comparing a youngster with no top-flight experience before this season to a treble winner and youth international star is some high praise.
In reality, the comparison definitely has its merits. Schneiderlin has proved a terrific reader of the game, making key tackles and interceptions left and right. He also boasts a solid 85 percent pass completion rate, meaning he's effective in stopping attacks and starting new ones.
Alongside Toure or Fernandinho, he could use his defensive prowess to aid the City back line. He can then leave it to his partner to use their more dynamic offensive skill sets to set their side on the path to more goals.
Geoffrey Kondogbia takes on Lionel Messi.
Geoffrey Kondogbia surged onto the international scene with a string of strong performances at current club Sevilla. The Mirror claims that Chelsea are seemingly hot on the heels of the youngster, and City would be wise to jump in.
At just 20 years old, the France youth international is a player who is slowly growing into his own as a professional. He boasts a 6'3" frame that he uses to muscle into opposing players, averaging nearly three tackles per game.
He is also a pretty solid passer from his deep position, boasting a success rate of nearly 87 percent. He doesn't play as many passes as some of the other players on this list, but comfort on the ball is something that will come in time.
While he might be better suited "growing" at a club like Sevilla, a desire to play in the upper echelon of European football may yield a move. City and Pellegrini could help him achieve these goals while grooming him into a top-class player.
Blaise Matuidi attempts to stop Andres Iniesta's run.
While 26 years of age might not fit the bill of "younger," Blaise Matuidi certainly deserves recognition here after a stellar campaign. He helped lead Paris Saint-Germain to the Ligue 1 title and to the quarterfinals of the Champions League, where they lost on away goals to Barcelona.
Matuidi scored a crucial goal in that tie. He buried a stoppage-time stunner in the first leg that sent the teams to Camp Nou on level terms. While the result didn't turn out as they would have pleased, the capital side got a great performance from their midfield rock.
The France international has shown himself as a defensive machine, averaging three-and-a-half interceptions per game as well as over three tackles per game. And to boot, he boasts a nearly 89 percent passing rate.
He racked up five league goals and three in Champions League play, showing that he can be a legitimate offensive threat. But his pure defensive mastery puts him near the top of his class at his position and makes him a worthwhile transfer target.
Lars Bender tracks Ecuador's Jefferson Montero.
Having examined options from three major leagues, we shift the attention to the Bundesliga for a couple of players. One of these is Bayer Leverkusen's Lars Bender, who is also being hotly pursued by Arsenal as the Guardian reports.
At 24 years of age, he has grown into a mature, well-rounded midfield force. His most recent campaign was stellar for Leverkusen, as a season of transition under new manager Sami Hyypia turned into a successful run to third place.
What makes Bender such an intriguing option is that he does a little bit of everything. From explosive runs to superb tackling—averaging over four per match—plus good discipline and the knack for an odd goal, the German can do it all.
His 79 percent pass completion rate may leave a little to be desired, but his excellent defensive capabilities more than make up for it. B/R's Allan Jiang called Bender a "more composed version of [Arturo] Vidal," extremely high praise and certainly worth targeting.
Luiz Gustavo slides to dispossess City and Spain winger Jesus Navas.
Sticking in the Bundesliga brings us a less-heralded option in Brazilian stopper Luiz Gustavo. He turns 26 this month and is becoming a prominent player despite not being the first-choice option at his position at Bayern Munich.
Playing mostly behind the aforementioned Martinez as well as Bastian Schweinsteiger, Gustavo made just 16 starts in the Bundesliga last season. But a 93 percent passing rate and four league goals from his position is pretty remarkable in such little playing time.
Gustavo would function as the destroyer in a pairing with Fernandinho or Toure. He'll throw himself into tackles, which does lead to more fouls and cards (six yellows in 22 total league games) than would be desirable.
But judging by his performance against Spain in the Confederations Cup, he can be effective in this role. He'll press opponents well, make some key interceptions and move the ball well once he wins it. Given his relative lack of playing time, he might be the cheapest of these five options as well.