Manchester City prepared to launch £50m bid for Everton midfielder Ross Barkley
Manchester City are willing to go back to Everton for Ross Barkley next summer and they may be willing to meet his £50m price tag because their own supply line of young English players is still three years away from first-team standard.
The importance to City of 36-year-old Frank Lampard, one of only four England-developed players the club are realistically able to field in significant matches, underlines the struggle they face as they wait for their academy work to bear fruit.
The pursuit of Barkley could establish a pattern of buying an English player in each of the next few summers as City seek to renew their squad incrementally and avoid the kind of mass overhaul that Manchester United have needed.
Yaya Toure will be 32 at the end of this season and City are not expecting to have developed his successor from within, despite intense investment which will include the academy being relocated to a state-of-the-art Etihad Campus neighbouring their stadium.
City's detailed scouting work on Barkley leads them to value him at £20m, though the high premium on top English stars meant they increased their offer to Everton to £30m this summer.
The Goodison Park club refused to budge from £50m so City reluctantly walked away, though City's £9m net spend this summer meant that they could have purchased the 20-year-old for £40m and still have fallen within the £49m spending restrictions imposed upon them by Uefa's punishment for breaching Financial Fair Play rules.
City could spend that £40m in the January window if their manager, Manuel Pellegrini, and director of football, Txiki Begiristain, feel there is a major weakness in the squad.
They are confident that their decision to enter the season with only three strikers was prudent, with Pellegrini's habit of playing a lone striker in many games leading the club to conclude that four may be one too many.
City have only one player in their Champions League squad who has come through the ranks – Dedryck Boyata, and he is a Belgian – but are determined to learn from the mistake they made in the summers of 2010 and 2012, when they launched into the market with the express aim of buying English players without fully assessing whether those individuals were good enough. Jack Rodwell, Scott Sinclair and Adam Johnson have all subsequently been sold.
Barkley is of title-winning calibre, which is likely to push City into more purposeful negotiations with Everton than this summer, when the approach was speculative. Barkley is currently six weeks away from a return to fitness from knee ligament damage.
City remain confident that they will be able to tie James Milner and Joe Hart to the club for the future with new contracts.