It is a sign of Pep Guardiola’s absolute control at Manchester City that the club were willing to sanction the deadline day departure of almost £100m worth of talent for little more than nominal loan fees in return.
On the face of it, allowing Eliaquim Mangala to seal a season-long loan move to Valencia — two years after becoming the world’s most expensive defender when arriving at the cost of £42m from Porto — is an admission of a hugely expensive mistake.
Equally, Wilfried Bony’s move down the M6 to Stoke City, just 18 months after completing a £27m move from Swansea, does little to promote City director of football Txiki Begiristain’s ability to spot talent, or its true market value. But with Mangala and Bony following Samir Nasri, a £25m buy from Arsenal in August 2011, out of the exit door at the Etihad Stadium, it simply exemplifies the grip that Guardiola has already asserted at City, less than two months after walking through the door as Manuel Pellegrini’s successor.
Nasri, who has contributed to more than enough winners’ medals at the club since rejecting Manchester United to sign for Roberto Mancini five years ago, moves to Sevilla on a season-long loan as a player who has justified his fee as a City player. But few clubs would be quite so prepared to back their manager as comprehensively as City’s Abu Dhabi hierarchy have done in allowing Guardiola to ruthlessly dispatch so many senior players in one fell swoop this week.
While Joe Hart cost City an eventual £1.5m following his arrival as a teenager from Shrewsbury Town 10 years ago, the club have allowed a goalkeeper worth at least £20m in today’s market to leave in order to complete an unexpected loan move to Torino, Serie A’s perennial under-achievers.
Throw in the loan move of Bruno Zuculini to Rayo Vallecano — the Argentine midfielder is now on his fifth loan move since playing against Arsenal in the 2014 Community Shield following a £3.5m move from Racing Club — and City have shipped out five players who cost a sum total of £99m to the club in the space of 24 hours.
Guardiola, who has spent just short of £175m on new signings this summer, is determined to re-shape the City squad to his requirements, however, and the cast-offs, regardless of their transfer fees, have gone because the new manager has made it clear they have no future under him.
He has created space for the club’s younger players to break through and prevented City being weighed down by a bloated squad of unhappy and under-used senior players.
But Guardiola has taken risks by undertaking his brutal cull. Will Claudio Bravo, Hart’s replacement, avoid the acclimatisation problems in England that cursed the likes of Pepe Reina and David de Gea in their early months at Liverpool and Manchester United following moves from La Liga?
Has Guardiola left City short of firepower up-front by allowing Bony, and also Nasri, to leave without a proven goalscorer recruited to cover for Sergio Aguero? One thing that is certain, however, is that no player inside the City dressing-room will doubt Guardiola’s current strength as manager.
The club have backed him to the hilt, both in terms of incomings and outgoings, and in both the board room and the dressing room, Guardiola has already made it abundantly clear that he is the boss.