As soon as it was confirmed that Pep Guardiola would become the Manchester City manager in the summer, the rumour mill went into overdrive.
Seemingly every player he’s ever worked with has been linked with a switch to the Etihad Stadium at some stage in the last few weeks. It could be seen as lazy to assume he will want to sign people he’s worked with, but it also makes a lot of sense, given the success he’s enjoyed during his career so far.
He encourages a particular style of football. When Barcelona first started playing his possession-based, high-intensity game, it was new and exciting, and not every player adapted. Some fell out of favour and were moved on. Guardiola can be ruthless.
The Bayern Munich head coach knows the players who can carry out his instructions, and it would be logical for him to want to work with them again.
He has quite a job on his hands at City. They have plenty of talent in the squad, but there are also plenty of holes.
The defence is all over the place at times, and they perhaps lack strength in depth in the striking department. Guardiola's passion for midfielders will also see him revolutionise that area.
The former Camp Nou boss will also throw a few surprises. There’ll be members of the squad who, on the surface, appear to be doing well, but who will be disposed of if he feels they aren’t suited to his style of play.
And he’ll have plenty of money at his disposal to reshape the squad in his own image. City are profitable, and their revenues are increasing.
With the Premier League’s new television deal ensuring every team in the division will be given a significant share of the £5.1 billion pot, English top-flight sides are set to be able to outmuscle their European counterparts in the transfer market. There's no reason he cannot enter the market and compete for big names.
City need an injection of fresh talent, with left-back perhaps the most pressing concern. For a number years, it’s a position many have felt has needed surgery. This summer, surely, City will finally address their problem position.
All of which points to interest in David Alaba. The 23-year-old Austrian is arguably the finest attacking full-back in world football, and he fits the Guardiola blueprint beautifully. Stamina, energy, intelligence and technical quality—he’s a player with very few holes in his game.
And there’s little doubt about the esteem Guardiola holds him in. Last year, with Alaba set to return from an injury lay-off, he said, per Goal:
If tomorrow was the [UEFA] Champions League final he would play.
We ask him every day how his knee is, everything is great.
With him we are a better team, he can play anywhere. He is outstanding.
On a scale of one to 10, he has always been an eight or a nine, sometimes 10. He is one of the most important players for Bayern Munich.
One of the most appealing aspects of Alaba’s game is his versatility. He’s primarily a left-back—arguably the world’s best—but he has played centre-back and in midfield under Guardiola.
“David Alaba is our god. He has already played almost all 10 positions,” Guardiola said last year, per Squawka.
A feature of Bayern Munich's game over the past two-and-a-half seasons has been the willingness of their left-back to attack, making runs underlapping the wide midfielder and causing chaos in the final third. It's ultra-attacking, bold and difficult to defend against.
Neither of City's current left-backs can offer that. Gael Clichy is returning to his best again after an injury-affected season and has looked much improved, but he remains a somewhat conservative option.
He is comfortable on the ball and has pace, and his homegrown status should ensure he remains a part of Guardiola's plans, but a first choice for a side wanting to win the Champions League? It's unlikely to whet the incoming manager's appetite too much.
Aleksandar Kolarov is the one likely to face the axe. His defensive capabilities have never been good enough, and unlike Clichy, he never appears comfortable in a side that looks to move the ball quickly along the ground.
He delivers a wicked ball, the kind back fours hate to defend, and possesses a wonderful ability to strike a free-kick. His overall game, though, is limited and probably not a good fit for Guardiola's style.
There's also an age issue. Full-back is a position that demands high energy expenditure. All four of City's senior full-backs—Clichy, Kolarov, Pablo Zabaleta, Bacary Sagna—are 30 or over. It's a position that requires youth and energy, and Guardiola will need to address it immediately.
If Alaba isn't available—and he would cost a significant sum of money to prise him from Bayern's grasp—it's a player of his ilk that City need. Someone who can attack and defend, has pace and strength and is comfortable in possession.
There are very few, if any, who can match him, though. Jordi Alba at Barcelona is hugely impressive and is perhaps the only one who comes close.
Alaba's passing ability is significantly underrated. He has great range, able to play neat one-twos and also produce long passes that stretch the play. He retains possession superbly and has a fantastic shot on him.
According to WhoScored, he has a pass-completion rate of well over 90 per cent this season, which is a remarkable statistic underlining his quality on the ball.
City would be instantly a better side with a player like him in the squad. Versatile, young and brilliant, he's exactly the kind of signing Guardiola needs to make.
Rob Pollard is Bleacher Report's lead Manchester City correspondent and will be following the club from a Manchester base throughout the 2015/16 season. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow him on Twitter @RobPollard_.
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