Manuel Pellegrini is to address Manchester City’s long-standing defensive issues this summer with the club’s transfer plans focusing on the recruitment of at least two defenders and a holding midfielder.
Having spent almost pounds 100?million on new signings at the end of last season, with the arrivals of Alvaro Negredo, Jesus Navas and Stevan Jovetic bolstering the team’s attacking options, Pellegrini and Txiki Begiristain, the director of football, have prioritised additions to the defensive department of the squad.
City are at an advanced stage in negotiations with Porto for the pounds 30?million-rated French centre-half Eliaquim Mangala and midfielder Fernando after failing to secure a deal for the two players in the final hours of the January transfer window.
Bacary Sagna is a confirmed target, with the Arsenal full-back ready to move to City on a free transfer after rejecting Arsene Wenger’s attempts to tie him to a new three-year deal at the Emirates Stadium.
Despite lavishing huge sums on the likes of Sergio Aguero, Robinho and the Brazilian midfielder Fernandinho, a pounds 30?million signing from Shakhtar Donetsk last summer, City have failed to recruit a world-class defender since Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan completed his takeover of the club in September 2008.
While Vincent Kompany is regarded as one of the leading centre-halves in the world, City have struggled to identify a partner of similar calibre to the Belgian, with the current options of Joleon Lescott, Martin Demichelis and Matija Nastasic all failing to convince as a potential long-term partner.
Mangala is regarded as one of Europe’s rising stars, however, and City are ahead of Manchester United and Paris St-Germain in the race to sign the 23-year-old. With Sagna capable of playing at full-back and also at centre-half, the 31-year-old would be viewed as competitive cover for right-back Pablo Zabaleta and also as a further option in the centre.
City are poised to release the out-of-contract Lescott this summer, with Micah Richards. Jack Rodwell and Scott Sinclair all likely to be made available. With Pellegrini content with the attacking players in his squad, the focus will be heavily on improving the defensive options at the club.
City, meanwhile, travel to Everton on Saturday knowing a victory will leave them requiring home wins against Aston Villa and West Ham United to secure the Premier League title. Zabaleta said: “Everton has always been a tough place for us to go, but we will have to win there. I believe that we demonstrated a lot of personality against Palace. It was important to score and keep a clean sheet and we’ve got the chance now to take this to the end of the season.”