Manchester City want a new left-back this summer, but won't pay Brighton's £50m asking price for Marc Cucurella.
Manchester City may have underestimated Brighton’s resolve in this transfer window, and as a result, they may enter the season with a player deficit.
They want to sign Seagulls left-back Marc Cucurella but will not meet their £50 million asking price and are willing to walk away to pursue other options at full-back. Since announcing that stance, reports have linked Chelsea with a bid for Cucurella at a price that Brighton would accept, potentially resulting in the Spaniard moving to Stamford Bridge rather than the Etihad.
On the one hand, City would be unconcerned about it. They have previously stood firm when a player’s asking price exceeded their valuation, and they are rarely held hostage in the transfer market. On the other hand, by rejecting Cucurella, they risk a season without a reliable left-back option to back up Joao Cancelo.
With Cancelo as the only senior competition for Kyle Walker on the right, City will enter the new season with only one senior right-back and one senior left-back, with teenagers Rico Lewis and Josh Wilson-Esbrand providing cover. For a team that relies heavily on rotation, especially during the busy season, it’s unusual to see two positions with only one senior option.
Of course, Nathan Ake can play on the left — and he may well be needed — but he’s more comfortable in the centre, and one injury to him, Walker or Cancelo really exposes the current lack of depth in the defensive wide areas.
It’s also entirely possible that City will sign a new full-back before the deadline. When they spent the entire summer of 2020 publicly pursuing Kalidou Koulibaly but refused to meet Napoli’s asking price, they were quietly working on a deal to sign Ruben Dias from Benfica, which turned out to be a good move.
However, if no left-back is found, City risks a season similar to 2019/20, with a thin defense that is only one injury away from becoming a major issue. If this occurs, they may be forced to enter the January market reluctantly.
With January deals frequently representing poorer value than summer deals, and a perception that signing players in the winter indicates a lack of planning from the previous summer, it’s easy to see why City prefers to do their major business between seasons.
They may not have a choice this season if the need for a new full-back becomes even more pressing and a title is on the line. City last purchased a key first-team player in 2018 — Aymeric Laporte — though others, such as Julian Alvarez, have been purchased in January before being loaned out.
Given the November-December World Cup, January price increases in 2023 may have an additional premium. If a player performs well in a tournament, their value often rises; combine that with the January factor, and any new signing next year may not be cheap.
However, by the time the Premier League returns in November, City may have few options, so if a new defender does not arrive before September 1, they may have to bite the bullet and enter the January window for the first time in five years.