Man City must up the stakes after their first bid to sign Marc Cucurella was rejected, and Pep Guardiola has publicly named three alternatives that could be utilised to leave Brighton hanging.
City are poised to see their already depleted full-backs ranks shrink further. Oleksandr Zinchenko has agreed to join Arsenal in a deal worth £30m, potentially rising to £32m. Personal terms have been settled and the move could cross the line as early as today.
Once the Ukraine international leaves, Guardiola will be left with just Kyle Walker and Joao Cancelo as recognised, senior full-backs.
Clearly, Zinchenko must be replaced and Brighton’s Marc Cucurella is the player Guardiola wants.
Brighton have knocked back the offer, though it’s stated ‘more talks’ and therefore a higher bid are expected to emerge in the coming days.
Brighton reportedly value their 23-year-old left-back around the £50m mark. That is around three-and-a-half times the fee they paid Getafe just 12 months ago.
The report claims City are unlikely to match that valuation despite spending £50m+ on Walker and Cancelo in the past. The difference on this occasion is Cucurella does not possess as much elite level experience as the aforementioned pair.
Clearly, City wants to bring Cucurella on board, though at a price that suits them, not Brighton.
Pep attempts to lower Cucurella price?
Now, Guardiola has addressed his side’s pursuit of Cucurella and reeled off a list of in-house options that could play at left-back if their Cucurella chase is abandoned.
That strategy may be with a view to strong-arming Brighton into a sale at a lower price. Indeed, an offer of around £40m for example would still represent excellent business. A bid of that size may also not come around again if Cucurella’s second season in England isn’t as impressive as the first.
“We are in negotiations,” admitted Guardiola (via Fabrizio Romano).
“If it doesn’t happen, we’ve alternatives… Cancelo, Wilson-Esbrand is a young talent, Ake can play there.”
Guardiola strategy looks a clear bluff
Cancelo is already the starting left-back despite being right-footed. However, he also doubles up as the primary back-up to Kyle Walker who is now 32.
Nathan Ake and Josh Wilson-Esbrand are both left-footed. Ake has deputised at left-back in the past despite being a centre-back. However, City undoubtedly lose a step or two going forward when Ake is at left-back.
Wilson-Esbrand, meanwhile, only has one senior City appearances to his name in the EFL Cup.
While he may boast potential in his locker, a club with City’s resources are unlikely to rely on an inexperienced 19-year-old when challenging for trophies on four fronts.
The likeliest scenario is City will indeed sign a new left-back this summer to provide back-up to Cancelo, and start when the Portuguese displaces Walker on the right.
Whether it’ll be Cucurella will depend on how staunch both Brighton and City are regarding the £50m valuation.