Manchester City's Transfer Deals Set to Centre on 'Home-Grown' Restrictions

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Manchester City's Transfer Deals Set to Centre on 'Home-Grown' Restrictions
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With Manchester City determined to avoid the kind of stagnation that followed their last title win in 2012, manager Manuel Pellegrini and director of football Txiki Begiristain have set about executing a well-planned transfer policy similar to last summer's.

Bacary Sagna has arrived on a free transfer from Arsenal, Fernando has signed from Porto and Willy Caballero has been reunited with Pellegrini after his switch from Malaga.

And according to Stuart Brennan at the Manchester Evening News, Bruno Zuculini could well be the next player through the door, although he is expected to spend this season on loan at a La Liga side.

Sagna, a French international who spent seven years at Arsenal, will provide stiff competition for City's first-choice right-back Pablo Zabaleta. He can also operate as a centre-back, adding quality and depth to City's defensive options.

Fernando, a defensive midfielder whose arrival allows Yaya Toure and Fernandinho more rest periods next season, as well as providing Pellegrini with the option of going with three in midfield against the best sides in Europe, is another recruit who adds strength in depth.

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And Willy Caballero, a player Pellegrini knows well after their time together at Malaga, will keep Joe Hart on his toes. Hart's form dipped dramatically last season, with many feeling the lack of competition he faced, both at club and international level, being the main problem.

Caballero hasn't come to City to sit on the bench, and he will be doing everything he can to win a first-team place from Hart. It's the kind of depth in quality the City manager wants in every position.

City's transfer plans are hamstrung somewhat this summer, though, with FFP sanctions restricting their net spend to £49 million, as well as the Premier League's "home-grown" quota rule which they are struggling to comply with.

Premier League rules state that clubs can name a maximum of 25 players for the league season, with only 17 of them allowed to fall outside of the home-grown criteria. Players under the age of 21, such as Matija Nastasic, are exempt and can be named without restriction.

At present, with the signing of Caballero, City have 17 first-team players who aren't deemed home-grown.

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However, with City still expected to sign a central defender to partner Vincent Kompany, they could yet find themselves with one non home-grown player too many.

Eliaquim Mangala and Mehdi Benatia remain City's primary targets for that position, via Adam Crafton at the Mail, and if either were to arrive, it would signal the end of the road for one of their other first-team players.

Many expect Alvaro Negredo to top the list of potential exports, with Atletico Madrid said to be keen on landing him, via David McDonnell in the Mirror, although their reported deal to bring in Mario Mandzukic surely casts doubt over their interest in the City star.

It is thought Negredo and his family have failed to settle in Manchester, leaving the striker, who scored 23 goals in his debut season at the club despite a 16-game drought at the end of the campaign, contemplating a return home.

City would want a fee exceeding the initial £16.4 million they paid Sevilla last summer.

Once City have finalised their list of 17 players who don't tick the Premier League's home-grown box, they must name at least eight other players who are deemed home-grown, as well as any number of under-21 players to supplement their squad.

At present, City have eight who comply with home-grown criteria: Joe Hart, Micah Richards, James Milner, Scott Sinclair, Jack Rodwell, Gael Clichy, Richard Wright and Dedryck Boyata.

However, Richards, Sinclair and Rodwell are expected to leave given their diminished roles in previous seasons, meaning City look set to name less than the maximum 25-man squad they are entitled to.

As reported by Daniel Taylor in the Guardian earlier this summer, Milner is also said to be unhappy with his role, both in terms of his playing time and position.

However, given the situation, it's unlikely the club will sanction a deal for him to exit the Etihad, and they will no doubt try and persuade him he has a future beyond the end of next season when his current deal expires.

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Milner is too good to let go, and the City fans are certainly desperate to keep him, but it will take a much-increased role this season to convince him to remain at the club. The risk, of course, is that he departs on a free when his contract expires next June.

The restrictions placed on City make this summer's dealings more troublesome than in the recent past, but with a few adjustments, they should comply without too many problems.

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_.

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