One thing is certain about the next transfer window, whenever it takes place. It will be a buyer’s market.
With the Covid-19 crisis depressing the global economy and forcing football clubs into drastic financial measures just to survive, any ideas of a splurge on new players has been put on the back burner.
With clubs seeing their revenue plunge, to the extent that financial fair play rules have been suspended by Uefa, ironically to allow wealthy owners to prop up clubs facing a tough period, there is not expected to be a lot of money available for buying new stars.
New Bayern Munich president Herbert Hainer was keen to make that plain – and no surprise, as the Germans are in the process of a rebuild and are chasing Manchester City’s Leroy Sane, as well as RB Leipzig’s Timo Werner and Bayer Leverkusen’s Kai Havertz.
Hainer said that the transfer market will be depressed by the global pandemic and, while it is in his club’s interest to push that notion as far as it will go, it is also undeniably true.
Sane’s future remains uncertain – Bayern seem confident he will join them, even though there are voices around the German club expressing doubts about the Blues winger’s commitment to their cause.
The longer Sane has delayed signing the new deal proffered by the Blues, the more likely his move has become.
City either need his signature or they need to sell this summer, otherwise they run the risk of losing him for nothing next year.
The £145million price tag they placed on the Germany international last year now looks outlandish, and even the £90-100million which Bayern were said to be prepared to pay now looks steep.
The months he has spent recovering from a cruciate ligament injury have lopped a chunk of money off Sane’s value, and the delaying of the summer transfer window, plus the economic depression of the pandemic, has sliced more off it.
But City need income to finance their own purchase plans this summer, with whispers of an impending overhaul of their squad rife being heard in the corridors at the City Football Academy.
How radical those changes will be is a moot point, but the need for a new centre back remains over-riding.
The work to identify and secure targets has not ceased during the lockdown, but City have been very discreet in their work, perhaps mindful that wild talk of transfer targets would be in bad taste with people – including manager Pep Guardiola himself – coming to terms with the devastation wrought by the virus.
There have also been hints that City may move for a replacement for David Silva after all, despite Phil Foden taking positive strides, while talk persists of Joao Cancelo being restless.
City have long sought to off-set the cost of incoming players with player sales – last season they brought in almost half of their £134million outlay through sales, and the season before they were actually in the black, spending £62million and bringing in £72million.
The increasingly likely sale of Sane would give them a solid base for this season, even in a depressed market, while they can also expect to land £10-15million in sell-on fees for Jadon Sancho, and have a £20million deal lined up with RB Leipzig for on-loan Angelino.
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If the talk that Cancelo is unsettled proves to be correct, that will add another possible £20-30million to the budget.
City have worked hard at shedding their tag of being a soft touch in the transfer market, a by-product of the necessity of paying whatever it took to develop their squad following the takeover.
No longer shadowed by desperation, they walk away from transfers which exceed their valuation, even when it leaves them short, as did their baulking at Harry Maguire’s £80million price tag, or Alexis Sanchez’s fantasy wages the year before.
That policy is likely to be tested again when the next window opens, expected to be whenever the current season gets completed.
City always planned to spend within their means, despite the popular misconception that they always had endless resources, financed by Abu Dhabi.
Financial fair play forced it upon them a little more quickly than was comfortable, but they have been compliant with Uefa rules for a few years now, and only spending money generated within the City Football Group.
They will stick strictly to that, under the watchful eye of chief operating officer Omar Berrada.