The biggest transfer saga of the summer looks like it is about to hit a rather premature and anti-climactic end.
As Pep Guardiola closes in on the £100m signing of Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish to add to an already stacked creative front line, MEN Sport understands that will likely bring to an end their chase of England skipper Harry Kane for financial reasons.
But with Sergio Aguero already wearing his new Barcelona colours, there is a big hole in the striker position for City to contend with if Kane doesn’t arrive.
There is always the potential that City and Guardiola change tack and go for a different striker, with the likes of Danny Ings linked in the past — and for a much smaller fee.
But it has never really been in City’s nature to sign stop-gaps in the transfer market, so why would they change their approach now?
Do they even need a striker? On the basis of last season, probably not.
During the 2020/21 season, City played just one game shy of the maximum they could have featured in. They won the Carabao Cup for a fourth consecutive season, won the Premier League at a canter finishing 12 points ahead of closest challengers Manchester United and made it to the Champions League final for the first time in their history. The only game they didn’t play in was the FA Cup final after being eliminated by Chelsea in the semis.
City had seven players last season who hit double figures for goals in all competitions with Ilkay Gundogan (17), Phil Foden (16), Riyad Mahrez, Raheem Sterling, Gabriel Jesus (14), Ferran Torres (13) and Kevin De Bruyne (10) combining for a whopping 98 strikes between them.
If you add Grealish’s creativity and goal threat to that ensemble, there’s no reason that tally couldn’t be matched or even improved upon.
Now obviously, signing Kane would take that City attack to a whole new level but moving heaven and earth for the deal is probably not necessary.
Kane has the ability to transform an attack but Guardiola’s teams have always been about getting the maximum from as many players as possible at the same time rather than focusing on just one main talent. The best of the best tend to shine the most, as Lionel Messi and Robert Lewandowski have shown at his previous clubs — but they aren’t the sole reason for their success.
City’s style of play is one where they are always more likely to score more goals than their opponent. They keep the ball for the vast majority of the game, have the most talent of the two teams on the pitch more often than not and they also have the deepest squad with the best manager on the sideline.
Waiting a year for a new top striker isn’t ideal in any sense of the word and if they had the choice they’d certainly rather bring Kane in than not. But it isn’t the end of the world if they fail to get it done.
Next summer Kane will turn 29 and will surely be competing in the 2022 World Cup at the end of the calendar year. He will be hungrier than ever, and probably more determined to leave.
But City will also know that he won’t be the only option. Erling Haaland’s £75m release clause will become active, while they’d also have a new opportunity to sign someone like Romelu Lukaku.
Last season they were three wins away from winning the lot without a focal point in attack and they’re still improving the squad with Grealish, so maybe waiting a year to see how their striker options pan out in 2022 isn’t such a bad thing after all?
Do you want an exclusive pre-season City preview – both in your inbox and through your letterbox? Head over here to find out more and secure your copy.