Manchester City have started identifying potential defensive reinforcements, despite manager Pep Guardiola’s claim that he does not want to make any January signings.
Guardiola has insisted that the players Citywould be interested in will not be available in the next transfer window and that he is ready to rely on his current squad for the remainder of the season.
But that has not stopped City scouts identifying a number of defenders they will make checks on between now and next season, with sources not completely ruling out a January swoop if one of their targets becomes available.
City expect Nathan Ake, who is one defender they have looked at,to rejoin Chelsea thanks to the £ 40 million agreementthat allows him to return to Stamford Bridge from Bournemouth.
But City are also watching the situations of Villarreal’s Pau Torres and Benfica’s Ruben Dias, who are both aged 22 and rated as two of the best young defenders in Europe.
Kalidou Koulibaly is reportedly keen to quit Napoli, but he is 40 and is also being pursued by Manchester United, who may be willing to spend big next month.
Guardiola will be boosted by the return of central defender Aymeric Laporte in the new year, although it remains unclear exactly when he will return. Laporte claimed he would be back in two months at the start of December, having been out since the end of August, following knee surgery.
City have struggled at the back without Laporteand having seen Vincent Kompany leave during the summer.
Ahead of Friday’s trip to Wolverhampton Wanderers, City have kept just one clean sheet, against Arsenal, in their last 13 games in all competitions.
With Liverpool points clear of City at the top of the Premier League table, with the added cushion of a game in hand, Guardiola is targeting the Champions League this season.
A tough last – 25 draw against Real Madrid could yet change his mind over making a January signing if the club can land the right man.
Koulibaly’s Napoli team are still in the Champions League and due to face Barcelona, but Benfica and Dias did not make it out of their group, as they dropped down to the Europa League, and Torres has not been playing European football with Villarreal so far this season.
Ake counts as home-grown, having spent his formative years at Chelsea, and that is something that is proving attractive to a number of suitors, with the Stamford Bridge club rated as favorites to land him.
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