When you’re Manchester City, you can quite literally afford to keep your options open.
Whereas most of the club’s Premier League rivals are busy trying to identify, bid for and secure their top summer transfer targets, City are keeping everyone guessing as they bid to bolster probably the one area of their team which needs serious surgery.
A little like when a television show films alternate endings to keep fans guessing, so City have reportedly agreed deals with two clubs for two outstanding central defenders, at least as per David Anderson in the Daily Mirror.
Anderson’s report claims that City have lined up a £32 million move for the Porto and France defender Eliaquim Mangala, but as they wait on a decision from the 23-year-old, who is currently with his country at the World Cup, a separate move has been made for the Roma defender Mehdi Benatia, who despite being born in France is a Morocco international, meaning that there have been no World Cup distractions for him.
Benatia would cost City around £30 million, but Anderson claims that the club see him as the second choice behind Mangala, for whom they are waiting on for an answer.
It’s a nice problem for the Premier League champions to have, but City will need to make a decision soon, as the risk of losing out on both players must surely be great.
As Anderson reports, Mangala is believed to prefer a move to Chelsea, and that is just the latest alarm bell on a transfer which has been one of the trickier for the club to complete in recent times.
Last month Mangala was said to prefer to move to Manchester United over City by Jamie Jackson in the The Guardian, with the centre-back also further keeping his options open by expressing his admiration for Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid.
The same piece quoted Mangala weighing up his options between City and Chelsea, and again there was only one winner.
The defender reportedly said:
City or Chelsea? Chelsea because it is London. It is true that I love the Premier League because it is a spectacular championship. In January, there were discussions with City, but it fell through because the two clubs could not reach an agreement. Every player wants to play in the biggest clubs. I am an ambitious player and the team that can help me win titles is the one that interests me.
You would have thought that the team who have just won the Premier League title would give Mangala the best chance of winning trophies, and perhaps the delay over the transfer means that it is time for Manuel Pellegrini to look elsewhere. Especially from a player who incidentally hasn’t played for a minute at the World Cup and is firmly France’s fourth-choice centre-back behind Liverpool’s Mamadou Sakho, Real Madrid’s Raphael Varane and Arsenal’s Laurent Koscielny.
That’s not to say he isn’t a good player, of course, as every coach and manager has different ideas, but surely the time could now be right to focus on a move for Benatia.
Perhaps the key issue with the Moroccan’s move is that he is four years older than Mangala at 27, but that has to be balanced out by the fact that he has just starred for Roma in Serie A—against far better competition than Mangala’s Porto face week after week.
After moving from Udinese last summer, Benatia has even further established himself as one of the best defenders in Serie A after his move to Udine on a free transfer four years ago.
Typically, Chelsea have also been in the hunt for the centre-back despite the strong partnership of John Terry and Gary Cahill last season, but despite a Daily Express report from Charles Perrin claiming that the Londoners were going to miss out on Benatia to City, surely the ongoing Mangala drama has threatened the move.
Who is the better centre-back?
Pellegrini will no doubt want to have the bulk of his squad in place by the time his players return for pre-season training, albeit with some players drifting in after the World Cup.
The Chilean simply can’t allow for this move to drag on any longer, and if he doesn’t get the answer he wants from Mangala soon then Benatia should be turned to.
Those options can’t be kept open forever.