Pep Guardiola Talks Frenkie de Jong, Ruben Neves Amid Latest Rumours

Rory Marsden@@roomarsdenFeatured ColumnistJanuary 14, 2019

Ruben Neves
Ruben NevesSam Bagnall - AMA/Getty Images

Pep Guardiola has made it clear Manchester City will not pay over the odds for a new holding midfielder and said the Sky Blues struggle to compete in the transfer market with Barcelona and Real Madrid.

The Premier League champions play Wolverhampton Wanderers on Monday as they look to cut Liverpool's lead at the top of the table back to four points.

Wolves midfielder Ruben Neves, 21, has been linked with City, but Guardiola said they will not meet his £100 million price tag despite needing cover for 33-year-old Fernandinho, per Jamie Jackson of the Guardian:

"He's an excellent player, but there are many clubs in the world, many holding midfielders in the world, and most of them can play here. That's not the point. Most of them are under contracts. A month ago, I started reading: 'Ruben Neves, £100 million.' That is not going to happen, we are not going to pay £100 million for a holding midfielder. Of course, in all departments in the club, we have in every position four or five or six options—depending on age, what we believe and, of course, the price."

Ajax's Frenkie de Jong is another young midfielder who has been linked with a move to City.

Frenkie de Jong
Frenkie de JongSoccrates Images/Getty Images

Per Jack Gaughan of the Daily Mail, Guardiola is still hopeful of securing the Dutchman in a £70 million deal, but he hinted City may struggle to sign the 21-year-old given Barcelona and Real are also interested in him:

"I'm not talking about the case of the Ajax player because he is an Ajax player. But if you want one and many, many clubs want him, it's more complicated, especially if it's Real Madrid or Barcelona.

"Normally when you are involved with Madrid and Barcelona you are going to lose. You have to be quicker and more efficient. I'm making a statement in general about when many teams want a player that it's more complicated."

Since Guardiola took over as City manager in June 2016, the Manchester outfit have spent over £500 million on new signings.

Pep Guardiola
Pep GuardiolaPAUL ELLIS/Getty Images

It has paid dividends, as City have become one of the best sides in Europe and won the Premier League at a canter last season.

However, it seems the flow of money for Guardiola to spend may be stemming a little, and the Spanish manager added City cannot compete with many other top European clubs in terms of wages, per Jackson:

"Our wage bill for the players is eighth or ninth or 10th in Europe, so there are eight or nine clubs where the wages are higher than Manchester City pay."

Following a huge amount of recruitment in the last few years, City now have numerous high-quality players in almost every position on the pitch.

The obvious anomaly is in the defensive-midfield role, where there is little adequate cover for Fernandinho, who will be 34 in May.

The Brazilian's value was proved recently when he was absent through injury for City's back-to-back defeats to Crystal Palace and Leicester City.

He then returned to put in fine displays in victories against Southampton and Liverpool:

Guardiola would surely love to bring in a young player like Neves or De Jong to act as cover and eventually replace Fernandinho. 

But it looks as though City may now have to curb their spending.   

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