He hasn’t even taken office yet, but reports in the German media are today claiming that Pep Guardiola has identified his first target for when he takes the reins at Man City in the summer.
Daily publication Bild are this week reporting that Guardiola has named Borussia Mönchengladbach midfielder Granit Xhaka as the man he wants to be the first new face in the door at the Etihad for next season.
Arsenal have had a long-standing interest in the two-time Swiss Super League champion, with substantial reports in January stating that he was one of Arsène Wenger’s top targets either now or in the summer, but Guardiola has now seemingly thrown a spanner in the works.
The report suggests that Man City have in fact already made a bid of €50million for the player, presumably with Pep’s blessing, as the 2014 Premier League champions look to undergo something of a revamp ahead of the next campaign.
With Yaya Touré looking like he might not last long under the new regime, Guardiola will be looking to fill the gap in midfield – and has apparently identified Xhaka as the player to do just that.
If the reported figure bid by Man City is true, then it would be a big ask to expect Arsenal (or indeed Liverpool, who have also been linked with the player) to match it.
And with almost impeccable timing, Xhaka revealed on Thursday morning that it would be a ‘dream’ to play in England.
Speaking to Sky Sports Germany, the player spoke of his ambition to play in the Premier League:
‘I think everybody has a dream. Everybody has a childhood dream and that’s my childhood dream. If my dream comes true, it remains to be seen.
‘At the moment I cannot say how realistic it is.’
Although Xhaka did not specifically mention Man City by name in that interview, they did come up when he spoke to Bild last week:
“Should I one day want to make the next step, it also has to be an improvement. But true, it’s difficult to say no when Manchester City want you and you could play there. That much I have to admit.”
That said, Xhaka has already hinted at a desire to play for Arsenal not so long ago, even going so far as to imply that he had asked Francis Coquelin to vacate Xhaka’s favoured number 34 should he end up there. One therefore has to wonder then if he has a certain club in mind or if he just fancies the idea of moving to the Premier league regardless of the ultimate destination.
The 23 year old midfielder arrived at Mönchengladbach in the summer of 2011 from FC Basel, for a fee believed to be around €8million. He has fostered a reputation as one of the brightest prospects in Europe, with former Bayern manager Ottmar Hitzfeld labelling him as a “young Bastian Schweinsteiger.”
— FC Bayern English (@FCBayernEN) December 4, 2015
He has thus far made 127 appearances for the Bundesliga outfit, including featuring twice against Man City in the Champions League group stages earlier this season.
At international level, he appeared for Switzerland in the 2014 World Cup, scoring in the 5-2 defeat to France.
If the deal does come to fruition, it would be the most amount of money Guardiola has sanctioned for one solitary player (not counting for the €46million + Samuel Eto’o grey area of the Zlatan Ibrahimović deal), and would certainly lay down an early marker that Man City mean business this summer.
If the fee has been exaggerated, however, expect Arsenal (and possibly Liverpool) to make their presence felt in this story once again.
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