According to a report in the Daily Telegraph Manchester City could be on the verge of completing their year-long pursuit of Shakhtar Donetsk central midfielder Fernandinho quickly after sealing the signing of Jesus Navas. If the deal goes through, it will be a critical statement of intent and ambition from Manchester City in a transfer window in which they are in danger of being marginalised by the likes of Monaco, Real Madrid and Chelsea in the spending stakes.
If they get him, coupled with Navas, it will give their attacking play a fresh new impetus and off the field will show that they still have the ambition and wherewithal to compete for the biggest names. There are serious questions to be asked about the fees they’d have laid out to get them, but on the field they would be upgrades.
Fernandinho is a central midfielder by preference, although he can, if needed, play deeper in a 4-2-3-1 as the playmaker in the Schweinsteiger/Xavi role. What Fernandinho has that none of the other City midfielders have is a full passing range and an ability to set a quick tempo in the passing game, roving around the pitch looking for the ball and looking to set attacks in motion.
James Milner, Gareth Barry and Javi Garcia all offer hard work and endeavour but precious little quality. Yaya Toure and Jack Rodwell are box-to-box players capable of getting the odd goal and making tackles but don’t have the variety of passing available to them that Fernandinho has. He would bring something genuinely different to a City midfield that looked one paced last season and overly reliant on the attackers producing a moment of magic. Fernandinho even has a highlight reel of long-range goals. So there is no question he would be a good signing football wise, and the same can be said of Jesus Navas. But with City, there are always issues with finance.
UEFA’s new Financial Fair Play rules come in to force this summer which means that clubs have to be careful what they spend, and should be tougher when negotiating to buy players. Of course, if you are buying from a club that doesn’t need to sell or are bidding against other big teams, the price will go up. The likes of Edinson Cavani and Gareth Bale are examples of this. The price can go sky high because the selling clubs are either relatively wealthy or have many clubs bidding. But, this isn’t the case with Fernandinho or Navas. Sevilla have said that City were the only club bidding on Jesus Navas, and they were surprised at how much they got for him; £22m in the end. Not only that, but Sevilla have financial troubles so surely could be been brought down a bit. In the case of Fernandinho, Shakhtar are a wealthy club but have been open that they would let Fernandinho go this summer. The Brazilian has a £42.5m release clause. The Telegraph believe a compromise fee has been reached but if this turns out to be anything over £20m it is far too much. As with Navas, they are the only bidders and Fernandinho has said he wants to play for them.
The final puzzle about these moves, is the age of the players. Navas is 27, Fernandinho is 28. City are spending what is expected to be around £45m on these two players but may only get four or five years service from them. This will be the most they ever cost, and they will depreciate very quickly. City already have a lot of expensively bought players who have lost their value, which looks horrible on their Fair Play balance sheet. These moves make football sense, but no financial sense.