For the most part, Manchester City are one of the most settled clubs in the Premier League. They have a manager and director of football who work harmoniously and take a long-term approach with the club and its direction, a new state-of-the-art training complex and stadium expansion in the offing and a strong squad of players fresh from a title win and League Cup triumph.
Every aspect of the club is developing nicely, from infrastructure to playing staff, yet one dark cloud continues to cast a slight shadow over preparations for the new season. Yaya Toure, last season’s star player, has consistently made noise about a possible departure from the club, leading to an exasperating number of column inches dedicated to speculation regarding his future.
It’s unsettling and unhelpful, and according to Jamie Jackson of The Guardian, manager Manuel Pellegrini is determined to sort the situation immediately upon the Ivorian’s return to the squad in around 10 days' time.
Toure will link up with his teammates just before City’s match with AC Milan on July 27 in Pittsburgh and immediately be summoned for talks. Pellegrini, understandably, wants to gauge the midfielder’s mood and is likely to try to talk him round should he indicate he wants out.
The club, however, remain in a strong negotiating position. Toure has three years left on a bumper deal signed only last summer, so there’s no urgency to sell, and if Toure insists he sees his future elsewhere, his value is at a premium after a remarkable season that saw him hit 20 goals as the club reclaimed the title.
At 31, it’s unlikely his stock will ever be quite so high again, with Paris Saint-Germain thought to be interested should a move become an option, per David Anderson and John Cross of the Mirror, and City are set to net a handsome fee if he’s sold. It's pretty much a win-win scenario for the club.
And according to Stuart Brennan writing in the Manchester Evening News, contingency plans are in place in case Toure does indeed decide to leave for pastures new. Everton’s Ross Barkley and Juventus star Paul Pogba top their list of targets, with both players fulfilling the “home-grown” criteria, a huge bonus given the makeup of their current squad.
City look set to struggle naming the maximum eight “home-grown” players this year if, as expected, Scott Sinclair, Jack Rodwell and Micah Richards leave. It could mean they end up naming less than the maximum 25-man squad (plus under-21 players) to which they are entitled.
The problem for City, like many other clubs, is that very few players considered “home-grown” are good enough to improve their first XI. Barkley and Pogba, though, are definitely exceptions to that rule, and negotiating a decent price would surely be the only stumbling block to any firm interest should Toure leave. City are hamstrung this summer by the restriction on net spending imposed by UEFA which stands at £49 million.
Barkley has impressed with his fearlessness and technical quality since his emergence at Everton, and his performances for England at the World Cup this summer suggested a player capable of a long, successful career. He has everything needed to be a world-class creative force for years to come.
And Pogba, who qualifies as a "home-grown" player because of the years spent at Manchester United's academy, has developed into one of the finest midfielders in Europe since he left Old Trafford for Juventus in 2012.
Playing for France in Brazil this summer, he further underlined his excellence with a series of superb displays. There would be no shortage of takers were he to leave the Serie A giants.
One thing is clear, though: Toure's unhappiness cannot drag on any further. The harmony in City's squad is one of their best weapons, and no one—not even Toure—can be allowed to disrupt that.
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_.