Manchester City could soon be facing a dilemma.
If, as expected, they finalise a deal for a new centre-half, thought to be either Porto’s Eliaquim Mangala or Roma’s Mehdi Benatia (via Jamie Jackson at The Guardian), they will have 18 first-team players who fall outside of the Premier League’s “home-grown” criteria. Rules state clubs can name a maximum of 17, meaning City will have to sell one of their current stars.
But who will it be?
According to reports, both Stevan Jovetic and Alvaro Negredo are the subject of interest elsewhere. Simon Jones, writing for the Mail Online, claims Inter Milan have now made three bids for Jovetic, a player highly respected in Italy after his successful spell at Fiorentina.
In an ideal world, it’s unlikely City would want to lose either, but with Premier League rules dictating, to a certain degree at least, the makeup of their squad, they are left with few options.
Jovetic and Negredo appear to be the men most likely to make way should the club do a deal for Mangala or Benatia. Javi Garcia is another player likely to be considered for sale, but there have been no rumours of interest from elsewhere so far.
Jovetic struggled for fitness during his first season at the Etihad, but managed to show his potential during his rare appearances. He’s different to any other forward in the City squad, able to drop deep and receive the ball between the lines, with a goalscoring instinct to match his technical ability on the ball.
He appears to be in a constant state of excitement on the pitch, a live-wire who unsettles opposition defences. He has a great touch, two good feet, vision and an obvious footballing brain. His reputation as one of Europe’s finest young attacking talents, it seems, is justified.
A series of muscular injuries kept him out for much of his debut campaign, reducing him to just 13 league appearances, but he gave enough glimpses of his quality to suggest he he has a lot more to offer as a creative force in City’s attack.
And then there’s Negredo, a player who experienced a bizarre collapse in form after his blistering start. He scored 23 goals in his first 32 games, leading the line for City with a mix of flair and brute strength, but failed to score in his last 16 games, leaving a few question marks over his future.
Memories of his early season form remain clear, though. His ability to play with his back to goal made him the kind of striker City had long desired, with a wonderful touch and ability to produce moments of individual skill his crowing attributes. With a season in English football now under his belt, he could prove to be a key player in his follow-up campaign.
His failure to settle in England seems to be driving the exit talk, but with Mandzukic now set to move to Atletico, whether there will be any takers for a player City will expect a hefty fee for remains to be seen. His reputation in Spain, though, where he was considered one of the best out-and-out goalscorers in La Liga, means there should be plenty of interest.
At 24, Jovetic is four years younger than Negredo and is technically more gifted. His potential to be a world star is clear. However, his injury record makes some sceptical about just how reliable he will be in the coming season.
Both players bring certain qualities, and both could very well play a big part in City's title defence, but it seems likely one will move on. Negredo would appear the more likely, but it's a conundrum for Manuel Pellegrini and Txiki Begiristain to mull over in the coming weeks.
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_.