Kevin De Bruyne reportedly wants an improved contract from Manchester City, with the player's agent saying the Belgium international should be paid on a par with Paris Saint-Germain attackers Neymar and Kylian Mbappe.
De Bruyne's agent, Patrick De Koster, has told Radio CRC (h/t Mikael McKenzie of the Daily Express) the player wants better terms: "But if you see how much Mbappe and Neymar cost you will understand how much he may cost."
De Koster revealed talks over a new contract could start soon: "We are discussing with City and in the coming months I'll meet the club to see how to improve and extend his contract. De Bruyne has many options because we are discussing the contract with City."
McKenzie pointed out De Bruyne still "has four years left on his existing deal, where he is believed to earn in the region of £125,000 a week," while Neymar and Mbappe "reportedly earn around £500,000-a-week."
Those terms make the kind of improvement De Koster is talking about a significant rise. However, while the pay hike would be considerable, there's no doubt De Bruyne's importance to City has grown during the past two seasons.
Talks are ongoing, according to the player, who is in no rush to force through a new deal.
"My agent went already one time to Txiki (Begiristain, director of football)," De Bruyne said per Sky Sports, following the win over Napoli on Tuesday night. "Talks are coming. I'm patient anyway, I don't stress. I think I read something in the press but I have time."
The intelligent and versatile playmaker has become the creative talisman of manager Pep Guardiola's free-flowing side. His creative output has been the signature of goal-greedy City's spectacular march to the top of the Premier League.
They cemented the Belgium international's status as the chief architect of goals in England's top flight since 2015, per OptaJoe:
32 - Since his Man City debut in September 2015, Kevin De Bruyne has provided 32 assists in the PL, more than any other player. Wizard. https://t.co/XX749Wt48D2017-10-14 15:21:32
In the wider picture, De Bruyne's creative output is only exceeded by one player in Europe's top five leagues, per Squawka Football:
Squawka Football @Squawka
Kevin De Bruyne has now recorded 67 league assists since 2012/13. Lionel Messi (68) is the only player with more in Europe’s top 5 leagues. https://t.co/lHbNmPZP4y2017-10-14 15:14:35
While the 26-year-old has only found the net twice so far this season, his last goal gave the Citizens a 1-0 win away to champions Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. It was further proof of his status as the player Guardiola relies on in clutch moments.
The City boss has played the Belgian deeper this season, as a conductor of play just ahead of holding midfielder Fernandinho. Yet the former Wolfsburg man has also been given licence to push further forward following injury to star striker Sergio Aguero.
Considering De Bruyne can also play wide, he's a player Guardiola can ill-afford to lose.
City may have little choice but to agree to the lavish demands of arguably the one player they couldn't adequately replace.
One player City may be more inclined to let move on is Eliaquim Mangala. The French centre-back is reportedly wanted by Serie A side Inter Milan.
Nerazzurri director Piero Ausilio is said to be set to watch Mangala, per Calciomercato.com (h/t Football Italia). The report revealed Inter "had already been heavily linked with Mangala over the summer, but could not agree terms, as they wanted him on loan with an option to buy."
Since then, the former FC Porto defender has remained on the fringes of the City starting XI. Mangala has made just one start, per WhoScored.com, coming in the Carabao Cup, as well as one appearance off the substitutes' bench in the league.
Mangala hasn't made the grade in Manchester since joining City in a deal worth £32 million back in 2014. The France international was even the subject of a £23 million bid from Crystal Palace on deadline day of this summer's transfer window, per James Ducker of the Daily Telegraph.
Ducker noted how "City ideally need to get Mangala's £140,000 a week salary off their wage bill." However, Guardiola should proceed with caution when deciding what to do about the 26-year-old, especially considering the suspect defensive depth in his squad.
John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi have started, but skipper Vincent Kompany remains injury-prone. The club captain's fitness, along with Guardiola's fondness for occasionally playing three at the back, still makes Mangala a valuable squad player.
His value has increased since left-back Benjamin Mendy was ruled out for seven months with ruptured knee ligaments.
Mendy being out means Danilo, a player Guardiola has occasionally used at centre-back, will be required more to provide depth at both full-back spots behind Kyle Walker and converted midfielder Fabian Delph.
It all adds up to Mangala still having some use in Guardiola's squad as a natural central defender with the pace, power and comfort in possession to revive his City career.
There's no debate about De Bruyne's importance, though. He's the one player whose future Guardiola and City must make sure is secured for the long haul.