The Manchester City manager in waiting, Pep Guardiola, will reportedly seek to bring Barcelona stars Neymar and Sergio Busquets to the Etihad Stadium next season in a stunning £150 million raid.
That’s according to Joe Bernstein of the Mail on Sunday, who writes City will pursue the pair in the summer, with both the midfielder and the forward having just two years left on their current deals. The piece continues to outline why Guardiola, who is set to leave Bayern Munich and take over at City next season, feels both players are so important:
With Lionel Messi considered unrealistic—partly due to his strained relationship with Guardiola towards the end of his time at the Nou Camp—attention for a marquee signings has turned to Neymar, who would end up becoming the world's first £100 million footballer.
Equally important to Guardiola's philosophy is Busquets, who regards the Bayern Munich manager as a footballing father after being plucked by him from the Barcelona reserves into the world's best team alongside Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Messi.
Bernstein writes City executives Ferran Soriano and Txiki Begiristain feel as though getting these two players on board would see the club “show their strength,” as signing players in their peak years from the Camp Nou club is something that is “virtually unheard of.”
It's claimed the Uruguayan international is the top target for Guardiola this summer and City have "already been given encouragement a deal can be done at the right price." Mullock also writes that Guardiola's brother, Pere, is Suarez's agent, and even though the former Liverpool man turns 30 next year, the new City boss is intent on bringing the player back to the Premier League.
Although these targets may seem fanciful on the part of City, as ESPN FC’s Dermot Corrigan noted recently, the European champions are not exactly flush with cash at the moment, meaning they could find it difficult to facilitate new contracts for both of these players:
Barca currently just at €421m salary limit - so need good bit more revenue to cover payrises for Neymar, Messi, Busquets...— Dermot Corrigan (@dermotmcorrigan) January 29, 2016
Neymar would certainly be the main glamour signing. The forward has excelled this season, taking his game on even further from the 2014-15 campaign and cementing his status as a world-class talent. He’s been a talismanic figure for Barcelona at times this term, with driving runs, a succession of chances created and plenty of goals, too.
However, speculation has raged about a potential move away from the club. As noted by Bernstein, Manchester United and Real Madrid are also said to be interested in the Brazil international; in the aforementioned piece it’s also suggested Neymar is “frustrated at playing second fiddle to Messi at Barcelona.”
Spanish football expert Sergi Dominguez commented after Barcelona’s 7-0 thumping of Valencia that Neymar, Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez all seem to love playing together:
The best part about the MSN trio is that they all play to enjoy it out there, not for individual statistics/awards.— Sergi Domínguez (@FutbolSergi) February 3, 2016
Busquets may not be as flamboyant as Neymar and, as a holding midfielder, does not grab as many headlines. But in what’s been a stellar campaign for the Blaugrana, his influence has been just as significant as Neymar’s, Messi’s or Suarez's.
You can see why Guardiola would potentially be keen on bringing him in, too. The Spain international is such a wonderful conductor of football matches, sitting between the midfield and defence, popping passes around the field. He’s strong, defensively astute and a remarkably intelligent player, providing a platform to play an open, enterprising style of football.
As we can see here, although Suarez and Messi grabbed the attention after the landslide triumph over Los Che, Busquets was at the crux of the victory:
Which player is more likely to leave Barcelona this summer?
It goes without saying that Barcelona will not want to part with either and, although the prospect of linking up with Guardiola would be tempting for these players, it’s not likely to be enough for them to depart the Camp Nou. After all, given the fantasy football this team is playing and the trophies they are winning, why would either want to go anywhere?
Additionally, Neymar’s father confirmed to COPE (h/t Paul Vinnell of Sky Sports) recently that the 24-year-old is settled at the club, while Busquets, having come through the La Masia academy, possesses a clear affinity with the Catalan giants. So while City have a vast amount of money, it’ll likely take more than £150 million to prise these two vital players away from Barcelona.