Belfast Telegraph

Pep Guardiola still looking to tighten up loose ends across the park

By Mark Ogden

Pep Guardiola is aiming to add a goalkeeper and forward to his Manchester City squad before the transfer deadline in an effort to intensify competition in both departments.

The City manager is due to take charge of a Premier League fixture for the first time when the club host Sunderland at the Etihad Stadium tomorrow night.

And despite spending almost £120m on new signings since succeeding Manuel Pellegrini earlier this summer, the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach remains determined to make two further additions to his squad.

While Guardiola is ready to start the campaign with Joe Hart as his first choice in goal, there remain concerns over the England goalkeeper's ability to match the Spaniard's requirements in terms of distribution with his feet.

Guardiola admires Hart's goalkeeping abilities, with the 29-year-old impressing his new manager on numerous occasions with a series of outstanding performances for City in the Champions League.

But with former Malaga keeper Willy Caballero struggling to assert pressure on Hart for his first-team place since arriving at the Etihad two years ago, Guardiola has instructed director of football Txiki Begiristain to find a goalkeeper capable of pushing Hart and, if required, replacing him in the team.

Efforts to lure Marc-Andre Ter Stegen from Barcelona have proved unsuccessful, but attempts are ongoing to add a goalkeeper before the August 31 deadline.

And with Ivory Coast forward Wilfried Bony facing the exit at City following his unsuccessful eighteen months at the club, Guardiola is also keen to add another striker to work alongside Sergio Aguero, Kelechi Iheanacho and £13.8m summer signing Nolito.

Raheem Sterling is regarded as an option through the middle, but Guardiola is reluctant to go into the campaign without a proven forward to support Aguero and make up for the inexperience of Iheanacho and Nolito's lack of familiarity with English football.

Meanwhile, Belgian defender Jason Denayer is keen to leave the Etihad following interest from Galatasaray, Swansea, Sunderland and Bournemouth.

The 21-year-old, who signed a five-year contract 12 months ago, fears that his first-team prospects have been diminished by the £47.5m arrival of John Stones and is now ready to push for a move away from the club - however Stones has been backed to cement a starting place in Sam Allardyce's England line-up after completing his transfer from Everton this week.

The 22-year-old was subject to interest from Chelsea last summer but the west London club's malevolence in the transfer market cost them the opportunity to sign the former Barnsley defender.

Guardiola benefited from their antics instead and Rio Ferdinand believes his lucrative Etihad switch could aid his efforts to become England's first choice centre-back.

The former Manchester United defender said: "At international level, if you look at the last two tournaments, we haven't had a player who can bring the ball out of defence, who can put his foot on the ball and go, 'Right, let me control it a little bit or step into midfield'.

"Someone like Stones brings something extra to the team. I watched him play for Everton against Manchester United, and he was the only one who was being forceful on the ball and trying to create things for his team-mates."

Belfast Telegraph


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