Guardiola launches counter attack on Barcelona by targeting huge signing

Riqui Puig, Ousmane Dembele and Oscar Mingueza at Barcelona training

Pep Guardiola will use his relationship with Barcelona to try and orchestrate a deal for Manchester City to sign Ousmane Dembele, according to reports in Catalonia.

Guardiola rose to managerial prominence with Barcelona before leaving for a new challenge at Bayern Munich and then another with Man City. He is now in his sixth season at the Etihad Stadium. His trophy tally with the club stands at 10, but he is continually seeking an evolution.

City’s squad has undergone major changes under Guardiola and more could be on the way. Despite winning the Premier League title last season, some of their players have been linked with exits.

One of those is Raheem Sterling, whose 28 Premier League starts last season equated to his lowest tally since his debut year with the club. With a contract expiring in 2023, he is at a critical point in his career.

The 26-year-old must decide whether to commit the rest of his prime years to the club or seek a new challenge elsewhere. With talks currently at a standstill, other clubs are eyeing him.

Barcelona recently emerged as a suitor for Sterling as they continue to react to the fall-out from the departures of Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann. Despite their financial woes, they need to find a way to strengthen their attack.

Sterling is a target if they can negotiate a loan with an option to buy. Furthermore, by removing Messi and Griezmann from the books, there is growing confidence that they could accommodate a new signing’s wages. Whether they could match Sterling’s current terms of £300,000-per-week is still questionable.

But they seem to be pushing ahead with a deal nevertheless. In addition, Sterling is apparently open to the move. And according to an update from Catalan source El Nacional, City could take the opportunity to make a signing of their own.

Raheem Sterling's time at Man City could be up

Raheem Sterling has been linked with a move to Man City

The report claims Guardiola would be willing to sign Dembele in the opposite direction.

Dembele was a huge investment for Barcelona in the same summer they sold Neymar in a world-record transfer. Since then, injuries have hampered his progress.

He remains someone Guardiola has faith in, though, and therefore could be a target for City.

Assessing who will be the next Premier League manager to get the sack

Guardiola to get best out of Dembele?

Guardiola is still looking for players to help City take the next step as Champions League challengers. They lost last year’s final to Chelsea, so going one better remains the ambition.

Dembele is described as a “pearl” by El Nacional, despite his injury history. If he can shake those troubles off, Guardiola would be glad to take the chance to integrate him in Manchester.

The France international has previously been linked with their cross-city rivals Manchester United. However, they are well stocked in attack now and he may no longer be a priority.

As for City, though, if Sterling were to leave they would need to find a replacement. He has scored 115 goals for them in 302 games.

Still only 24 years old and a World Cup winner, Dembele could be their man if Guardiola can get a tune out of him.

What’s more, his contract situation is even more urgent than Sterling’s. Barcelona only have him tied down until 2022. In theory, City could get him as a relatively cheap makeweight in what would be a presumably more expensive sale of Sterling.

READ MOREFirst Newcastle move will see new owners inflict ‘major loss’ on Man City