Man City: Who could leave this summer? And who should?

With only a couple of weeks remaining before the Premier League is set to kick off once again (hallelujah), there are sure to be a number of top teams trying to finalize movement both into and out of their squad sooner rather than later. Manchester City is no exception. Arguably the deepest and most talented team in the league last season, they failed to inspire for long periods of the campaign and were, frankly, pretty lucky to hold on to the final Champions League spot for this upcoming season. They did win the 2016 Football League Cup in a thrilling penalty shootout over Liverpool, and they did make it to the semifinals of the Champions League itself, which is no small feat. But they flattered to deceive in that semifinal tie against Real Madrid, when they hardly looked threatening over the two legs. All in all, most City fans would chalk up the season on the whole as a disappointment.

Enter Pep Guardiola. Taking over for the serviceable Manuel Pellegrini, an absolute gentleman who helped the club to its greatest achievements before being rather unceremoniously dumped, Guardiola rides into Manchester off the back of astonishing success at both Barcelona and Bayern Munich, where he obtained more silverware than the Queen of England. And despite being regarded as one of the world’s top tacticians with an incredible array of players and the full backing of the ludicrously wealthy Sheikh Mansour and his City Football Group, there are still many questions that have yet to be answered. For months, there has been talk that Pep wanted a complete revamp at City, and yet the club have only signed Nolito and Ilkay Gundogan thus far who will challenge for first team minutes (they have signed a couple of prospects as well, most notably Leroy Sane), though introducing two players of such quality are hardly something to complain about. Sky Sports is reporting that Everton’s John Stones is likely to join, which would make four of the eight reported signings Pep was looking at complete. Such signings necessitate that several players leave the club. Here’s a look at who I think is most likely to do so, and whether or not they should.

Bony has failed miserably to live up to his form he showed at Swansea when Sergio Aguero has suffered injuries, which, basically, is half the season. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Wilfried Bony: A curious signing when he moved from Swansea City, Bony has never really settled at the Etihad. He was never going to displace a healthy Sergio Aguero, and with the emergence of the young Nigerian striker Kelechi Iheanacho, Bony’s days look numbered in the sky blue of City. He could be loaned out for the upcoming season, but only six goals in thirty-six appearances will most likely see him moving on, be it this summer or the next.

Could Leave – Yes | Should Leave – Yes

Pablo Zabaleta: A dutiful servant of the club, a fan favorite, and a member of Manchester City since 2008 (before the huge money windfall), Zabaleta’s days in the English Northwest appear to be drawing to a close.  A rampaging, hard-tackling right back in his prime, he has looked well past that prime for several years now. Still gives it everything he’s got when called upon, and is no doubt a leader in the locker room, but is now the unquestionable backup to Bacary Sagna. With Pep honing in on Arsenal’s Hector Bellerin, now may be the time for him to challenge for first team minutes elsewhere.

Could Leave – Yes | Should Leave – Yes

Emre Mor gets the better of Jesus Navas during Man City’s friendly against Dortmund in China. (Photo by VCG/Getty Images)

Jesus Navas: No player frustrates City supporters more than Jesus Navas.  A winger with blistering speed and good technical ability, his lack of soccer IQ and wastefulness in the final third have become an internet meme in itself. Given a lot more time than he deserved under Pellegrini and did very little to justify it. Pep surely won’t give him such minutes, and with the signing of Nolito and arrival of Sane, Navas will most likely spend most of this season on the bench, if he stays.

Could Leave – Yes | Should Leave – Yes

Aleksandr Kolarov: An attacking left back, Kolarov is one of the deadliest left-footed set piece takers in the Premier League. An excellent crosser of the ball who routinely shirks his defensive duties, City fans have to be chuckling over how he’s been utilized by Pep thus far in the preseason at left centre-back. If Pep can make him an actual defender, then his usefulness increases exponentially. Being a left-footed center back or very solid backup to Gael Clichy at left back should keep him around for at least this season, but if John Stones ends up signing this summer, all bets are off.

Could Leave – Yes | Should Leave – No

Eliaquim Mangala: Much of the world laughed, or just shook their head in disbelief, when Man City made Mangala the most expensive defender in British transfer history after buying him from Porto for a reported £42m in the summer of 2014. He has done little to justify that massive transfer fee since, despite flashes of brilliance. An excellent physical specimen who loves to defend, his lack of technical quality has been his undoing several times in the past. Guardiola, perhaps more than any other manager, wants every player on the pitch to be technically sound, without exception. Having a centre-half with stone feet certainly isn’t in his plans. However, if City don’t sign John Stones, having already released Martin Demichelis, they would be perilously thin at the centre-back position. Jason Denayer has no experience in the Premier League and looked somewhat overwhelmed against Wales at the Euros, while Vincent Kompany is class when fit but oft-injured as of late. This suggests that Mangala should have at least one more season to prove himself in Manchester.

Could Leave – Yes | Should Leave – No

Yaya getting instructions from Pep before making a substitute appearance against Bayern Munich. In the ICC, of course. (Photo by Lennart Preiss/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Yaya Toure: Listed at 33 years old, Toure’s best days are undoubtedly behind him. One of the best box-to-box midfielders in his prime, Yaya has looked increasingly bored and apathetic in the Cityzens’ kit. Pellegrini always seemed to create space for him in the lineup, even when it forced players like Fernandino, who Pep adores, to lesser roles. With the arrival of Gundogan, and with Fernandinho and Fernando likely ahead in pecking order, Toure may be consigned to the bench. It is also worth noting that he and Guardiola have history at Barcelona together, where they famously did not get along and which caused Toure to decamp for Manchester (but not before Pep made him play at centre-back). A move further back into defence seems unlikely at this point, but it may be the only place for Toure to continue to play decent minutes. A reunion with Roberto Mancini at Inter Milan has been bandied about, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see Yaya lumbering around the San Siro at some point. 

Could Leave – Probably Not | Should Leave – Yes

Samir Nasri: Along with David Silva, probably the most accomplished technical player at Manchester City. Capable of playing both in central midfield and out wide, Nasri has looked the part at City when fit. Unfortunately for him and the club, it has been some time now since he was fully fit. Injuries have wrecked the better part of him in the last two seasons, and when he returned at the twilight of last season, he looked, frankly, fat. Pep Guardiola made headlines recently when it was reported that he had commanded the team’s overweight players to go on a diet and that they would not be allowed to participate in training until they had cut the weight. Essentially it’s the Samir Nasri Rule, and it is clearly not the way to endear yourself to the new boss. Yet despite Nasri’s lack of current mobility and reportedly questionable work ethic, his class is well known, and with Pep looking to play sweet technical football, it would be more shocking to see Nasri leave than stay.  He will most likely have at least a year to prove to Pep that he deserves to stay in the fold. Whether or not he will make the most of that chance is less clear.

Could Leave – No | Should Leave – Probably Not

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