Manchester City

Manchester City

Premier League • England

Five potential heirs to Kevin de Bruyne at Man City: £100m title winner, Bayern Munich golden boy

Ryan Baldi
Florian Wirtz, Kevin De Bruyne and Xavi Simons

Kevin De Bruyne would be a tough player to replace at Man City

Kevin De Bruyne is unquestionably one of the Premier League’s best-ever players and is arguably the greatest ever to wear the sky blue of Manchester City. 

But at 32, with injuries an increasing occurrence and a contract that expires at the end of next season, Pep Guardiola’s Treble champions reportedly have one eye on a future without their brilliant Belgian playmaker and are more open than ever to considering offers for the two-time PFA Footballer of the Year.

Clubs in Saudi Arabia would be interested in spending big on De Bruyne, for example.

Here are five players Man City could turn to in search of an heir to De Bruyne at the Etihad.

Florian Wirtz

The young star of Bayer Leverkusen’s unbeaten surge to the Bundesliga title, Florian Wirtz has emerged as one of the most productive and exciting attacking midfielders in Europe.

With 18 goals and 20 assists for Xabi Alonso’s league winners, the 20-year-old Germany international is in high demand all across Europe.

But if City are preparing to part ways with De Bruyne, they’d be wise to enter the race for Wirtz’s signature as the Leverkusen star possesses the defence-splitting creativity and eye for a crucial goal to help fill the void the former Chelsea and Wolfsburg superstar would leave behind in Manchester.

Valued at around £100 million, any pursuit of Wirtz would likely eat up a significant chunk of Guardiola’s transfer budget. But City cannot afford to scrimp on the player they hope to replace a club legend who has been central to the capture of 13 trophies in his nine years at the Etihad.

Xavi Simons

De Bruyne is not the only star creative midfielder linked with an imminent City exit of late – French champions Paris Saint-Germain have reportedly made Bernardo Silva a key target, aiming to lure the diminutive Portuguese magician back to Ligue 1.

What makes PSG’s interest in Silva especially interesting from a City perspective is that the Parisians are said to be willing to offer Dutch playmaker Xavi Simons in part-exchange.

The 21-year-old Netherlands international has only played 11 senior games for PSG since joining the club’s academy from Barcelona in 2019. But Simons has enjoyed back-to-back breakout campaign elsewhere over the past two seasons.

The first came with PSV in his homeland. The Eindhoven club signed Simons in a permanent deal 18 months ago, but the gifted midfielder impressed sufficiently in what was ultimately his only season at the Philips Stadion – scoring 22 goals in 48 games and leading the club to a KNVB Cup triumph – that PSG triggered a bargain €6 million buyback option they held over the player.

This season, Simons shone on loan with RB Leipzig, where the creative side of his game has come to the fore, with 15 assists in all competitions.

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Lucas Paqueta

City had hoped to sign West Ham star Lucas Paqueta last summer, only for an FA investigation into betting irregularities concerning the midfielder to scupper the proposed £70 million switch.

It appears Guardiola has not given up on landing the Brazilian creator, however, amid reports City were then ready to trigger an £86 million buyout clause that will become active in the 26-year-old’s West Ham contract at the end of the current season.

The 42-cap Brazil international moved to the London Stadium from Lyon in a club-record deal worth around £51 million in the summer of 2022. And he has delivered a healthy return on the Hammers’ investment, marking himself out as one of the most dynamic and skilled attacking midfielders in the Premier League and helping fire the Hammers to Europa Conference League glory last season.

However, he is once again facing FA charges, which will have consequences on the chances of him moving this summer.

Jamal Musiala

It might seem a long shot that Bayern Munich would consider selling the young Germany star, but reports that Jamal Musiala has rejected the club’s offer of a contract extension at the Allianz Arena give hope to the likes of City and Liverpool, who are believed to be huge admirers of the 21-year-old. 

A former top prospect within Chelsea’s vaunted academy, Musiala joined Bayern in 2019 and, while still a teenager, broke into the Bavarian side’s first team and quickly cemented his status as one of the most gifted forwards in Europe.

Despite his tender years, Musiala has already racked up over 150 appearances for the reigning German champions, scoring 41 goals. An elusive dribbler with the ability to score from a wide variety of angles and distances, he has the vast talent to improve any attack – even one as loaded as City’s.

But even if Bayern are convinced to part ways with the player whose current contract is set to expire in 2026, they will offer no discount – the bidding will reportedly start at £86 million.

Alex Baena

He might be the least-known player listed here, but Villarreal’s Alex Baena has shown this season that he has the potential to become one of the best creative attacking midfielders in Europe.

The 22-year-old enjoyed a breakthrough campaign at the Estadio de la Ceramica last season, standing out for his versatility – able to play on either flank or centrally as a No.10 – and his scoring, delivering an impressive return of 12 goals from 48 appearances.

This season, it has been Baena’s ability to set up goals for others that has shone brightest, with an impressive 18 assists in 45 games.

City are said to have scouted the one-cap Spain youngster last year. But if the Treble winners hope to acquire Baena, whose contract includes a €60 million release clause, they will face competition from another Premier League club – Unai Emery, who worked with Baena at Villarreal – has reportedly been keen to reunite with the midfielder at Aston Villa, though whether or not that interest persists remains to be seen.

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