According to Jamie Jackson of The Guardian, Javi Garcia, Manchester City’s Spanish midfielder, is set for a move to Zenit St. Petersburg for a fee which could rise to £12.8 million. The Russian club would ideally like to unveil him at a press conference later this week, with manager Andre Villas-Boas a keen admirer of his talents.
It’s a move that makes total sense for City who, having signed Eliaquim Mangala earlier this week, now have 18 non-homegrown players in their squad, with Premier League rules stipulating clubs can name a maximum of 17. They therefore need to shed one non-homegrown player, and with central midfield now a well-stocked area of City’s squad, Garcia emerged as the most likely to depart.
UEFA rules are slightly different and dictate that only 16 non-homegrown players can be named in club’s Champions League squads, meaning, even with Garcia’s expected exit, City will have to omit one big-name player from their squad for Europe’s elite club competition. Alvaro Negredo’s injury leaves him as the likeliest to miss out.
With Financial Fair Play still uppermost in the minds of the club’s decision-makers after this year’s sanctions saw a cap on net spend and squad restrictions in European competition, bringing in money through player sales has taken on increased importance. The expected fee for Garcia is substantial—a £12 million down payment with £800,000 in add-ons—and City will be able to use it to balance their books. Their maximum net spend this summer is capped by UEFA at £49 million.
The form of Yaya Toure and Fernandinho, and the arrival of Fernando from Porto, mean Garcia has slipped down the pecking order and looked set to play even less than he had previously. It’s a deal that appears to suit all parties.
It will bring to an end a two-year stint that defined Garcia's inability to ever truly win over the City supporters. His lack of pace was his main handicap, as were his nervous and inhibited performances during his first season at the club after arriving from Benfica in the ill-fated summer of 2012 after City had just won the title.
Former boss Roberto Mancini's last-minute trolley dash around Europe saw City sign players incapable of moving the club forward and consolidating their position as the best team in England. They finished 11 points behind Manchester United in one of the weakest title-defences in the Premier League era.
Garcia was seen by the City fans as indicative of their poor transfer strategy and became a scapegoat for poor results.
His second season, this time under the tutelage of Manuel Pellegrini, began in much the same fashion, but a wonderful performance away at Bayern Munich in City's 3-2 win saw the tide of public opinion begin to change. Garcia, for all his faults, was carving out a reputation as a player who could play a useful role in nullifying opposition attacks.
A standout showing at Hull in City's vital 2-0 away win saw his stock rise still further, and during last season's tense run-in which ended with City securing their second league title in two years, Garcia emerged as a key player. In an unfashionable role just in front of the back four, he gave City a solid platform in games in which there was no room for error.
However, it wasn't enough to force his way into Pellegrini's first XI plans in the long term. He was solid and tidy rather than spectacular, and with the Toure-Fernandinho pairing so impressive, it was going to take a monumental effort for Garcia to start regularly this season. Fernando's arrival was arguably the final nail in his coffin.
He will never be remembered as a great—far from it, in fact—but City fans would do well to focus on the positives. Garcia is a player who overcame a fierce hate campaign to contribute positively to the club's latest title win. He should, at the very least, be respected for 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.