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January 22, 2023

Every summer, Manchester City chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak uses the club’s in-house TV channel to address fans. This is usually a review of the previous season, but this year’s speech also included a warning for the Premier League and the rest of Europe.

Borussia Dortmund striker Erling Haaland, one of the best young players in the world, has already been bought for £51million, and according to Khaldoon the team will only go from strength to strength ahead of the new campaign. “I can confirm that there will be more players arriving,” he said. “We are looking to strengthen the team in areas that need strengthening.”

Considering they are already the dominant team in England, it’s a statement that worries their rivals around the world.

Pep Guardiola’s side were close to Liverpool last season but still won their fourth Premier League in five years. They scored 99 goals – more than anyone else – while often playing without a recognized striker, and had the best defensive record (26 goals conceded, tied with Liverpool). They posted over 90 league points for the third time since 2017-18 and were minutes away from a second consecutive Champions League final before an inexplicable dying slump against Real Madrid.

After six years under Guardiola, City are a well-oiled winning machine. And, according to Khaldoon, they keep their foot on the accelerator.

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Haaland is the main arrival and fills a gap up front that City handled admirably last season, but sources have told ESPN that other changes to the squad will allow Guardiola’s side to participate in all competitions next year.

Argentina striker Julian Alvarez, signed from River Plate for £15m in January, has been told he won’t be loaned out, and management have already started work to find a new left-back and midfielder to replace Fernandinho, who left after nine seasons at the Etihad Stadium.

Sources have told ESPN that former Barcelona full-back Marc Cucurella is on the list of potential targets and that Brighton’s asking price of £35million is not seen as too problematic.

England midfielder Kalvin Phillips is admired by Guardiola and City director of football Txiki Begiristain, although sources have told ESPN a decision has been complicated by Leeds’ escape from relegation. However, a deal is still on the table and City are expected to get in touch with Leeds after the Nations League games in England.

Elsewhere, City have distanced themselves from the moves of Barcelona’s Frenkie de Jong and West Ham’s Declan Rice.

De Jong has been offered to City – and most of Europe’s top clubs – as Barcelona try to raise £70million for new arrivals, but so far only Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain have fired positive responses. Man United are the main suitor, but there are fears at Old Trafford that the Dutchman is keen on staying at Barcelona – whether they like it or not. Rice, meanwhile, has told West Ham he is unlikely to sign a new contract and wants regular Champions League football, but this summer at least City have ruled the 23-year-old years overpriced at over £100m.

Any other new signings for City will likely depend on exits.

City are expecting striker Gabriel Jesus to leave and, as such, Arsenal, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid have already expressed interest. Guardiola is a fan of the Brazilian player, who played a key role at the end of last season, but with just one year remaining on his contract and a desire for more regular playing time, City are ready to talk to around £50 million. Jesus is open to the prospect of a reunion with former Guardiola assistant Mikel Arteta at the Emirates, but City’s valuation has so far proved an issue.

Arsenal are also among clubs interested in Ukrainian left-back Oleksandr Zinchenko and England winger Raheem Sterling. Sterling will enter the final year of his contract this summer, and sources have told ESPN he is close to making a decision regarding his immediate future after Nations League games in England. Both Bayern Munich and Real Madrid are monitoring the situation closely, and Sterling hasn’t ruled out a move abroad. The 27-year-old is fully aware that the next contract he signs will be the most important of his career.

A new five-year deal would take Sterling to 32, and by then the chance to test himself in another of Europe’s major leagues may have passed. He’s also worried about his place in Guardiola’s future plans and won’t just sit on the bench. While Sterling indicates he is unlikely to seriously consider signing a new contract, City should listen to offers this summer to avoid losing him for free in 2023.

Sources have told ESPN they will also consider offers to sign midfielder Ilkay Gundogan and winger Riyad Mahrez – both over 30 and out of contract next summer – as Newcastle are interested to defender Nathan Ake, although the trio are not all allowed to leave at the same time.

Guardiola doesn’t like to keep players unhappy – that’s why winger Ferran Torres was allowed to join Barcelona for €55m in January – but the team must be strong enough to cope with the demands of four competitions.

City are at the start of a summer of change, but their ability to challenge for the biggest trophies already looks set to stay the same. They have set the standard in the Premier League over the past decade and continue to take steps to keep it that way. Their adversaries are warned.

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