According to a report by David Anderson in the Mirror, Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini is set to make Malaga goalkeeper Willy Caballero his third summer signing. Deals for Bacary Sagna and Fernando have already been announced, and Caballero appears to be the next signing aimed at ensuring City retain the Premier League crown they secured in May.
City are in need of a goalkeeper after last season’s backup, Costel Pantilimon, left the club to join Sunderland on a free transfer last month. Caballero, who has worked with Pellegrini before when the City boss was in charge at Malaga, would provide far stiffer competition than Pantilimon was capable of.
The Romanian goalkeeper was extremely limited and failed to ever really put pressure on City’s No.1 Joe Hart. Last season, when Hart was dropped after some appalling displays that cost City points away from home, Pantilimon was giving a six-week run as City’s first-choice goalkeeper and, although he didn’t make any major errors, he failed to convince he was a long-term option.
His distribution was poor and he struggled to command his area in the way a 6'8'' goalkeeper is expected to. He often looked nervous, too, and Hart was brought back into the fold, despite huge concerns over his form and confidence.
AS: Malaga say no agreement has been reached with City over Willy Caballero, with the club wanting at least £8m for the goalkeeper.— City Watch (@City_Watch) July 1, 2014
At 32, Caballero has clocked up over 100 La Liga appearances, has played Champions League football and is considered one of the most trusted ‘keepers in Spain. Hart is likely to begin the season as first-choice given the improvement in his performances after being reinstated last December, but Pellegrini, some believe, isn’t a huge fan of the England man’s ability, and Caballero will be seen as a player capable of stepping in at any time should Hart's form show signs of regression.
Competition for places is hugely important for City as they look to make a better fist of competing for four trophies next season. City were fighting on four fronts until early March last season, winning both the Premier League title and League Cup, yet there’s a feeling inside the Etihad that if the squad had been stronger in certain areas, they could well have progressed further in the Champions League and FA Cup.
Although City’s squad was arguably the strongest in the league last season, there were certain areas in need of strengthening. The club, clearly, are addressing those, with a quick, focused transfer strategy similar to last summer’s being enacted once again.
They possess a core of world-class players—Pablo Zabaleta, Vincent Kompany, Yaya Toure, Fernandinho, Samir Nasri, David Silva and Sergio Aguero—yet there were times in Pellegrini’s first year in charge when they struggled to keep their performance level high if two or more of those players were missing.
City’s director of football, Txiki Begiristain, working closely with Pellegrini, has identified a number of players to fix that problem in the hope City can push on from last season’s excellent performance. Sagna solves the problem of lack of competition for Pablo Zabaleta, a player who has been relied upon too heavily in recent times, and Fernando offers further rotation in central midfield, as well as allowing for a three-man combination in tough European away games, should Pellegrini deem it necessary.
An improvement in their Champions League showing is a must, and with the rigours of three domestic competitions weighing heavy as well, only a squad with strength and depth in every department can be expected to challenge for everything. City lacked that at times last season, but their transfer strategy this summer suggests it may not be so much of an issue this time around.
Rob Pollard is Bleacher Report's lead Manchester City correspondent and will be following the club from a Manchester base throughout the 2014-15 season. Follow him on Twitter here: @RobPollard_.