According to various media outlets the protracted race to sign Belgian wonderkid Eden Hazard could be entering the final straight with City firmly at the back of the pack. Reports in France, mostly emanating from sporting newspaper L'Equipe have been suggesting for a week or so that the player would only consider a club where he would be an automatic starter, and where he would be guaranteed to play behind a striker, the classic '10' as it were. Obviously having the strongest squad in the league dictates that outside of Aguero, Yaya Toure, Silva and Kompany we don't have any automatic starters, and Hazard at this moment in time isn't ready to join that elite. There is also doubt whether he would be utilised solely in a central position due to form of both Toure, Silva and Nasri in those areas.
Those would seemingly be the reasons that we have slipped out of contention, one French journalist on twitter has gone as far as to say that our offer is 'dead'. The suggestion is that Chelsea have come out of nowhere since winning the Champions League and are close to wrapping up a deal worth £150,000 a week, whilst United are also an option for the 21 year old.
Clearly nothing is set in stone yet, and these reports could boil down to being purely conjecture but if we take them as being accurate one would assume we are looking at other targets. To be honest I am not totally sure it is an area we do need to strengthen, but if the club deem it necessary, who are the players out there that could be viewed as a backup plan, a fall back if you will.
Belhanda was linked to City a few weeks ago as an alternative to Hazard. Various newspapers claimed that the Moroccan international had already been identified by the club as the go-to player should a move for the Belgian be unsuccessful. The 22 year old is in his 3rd season with French club Montpellier, with whom he won the Ligue 1 title this season. Belhanda can play on either flank or centrally behind a striker and is similar to Hazard in some ways, he has excellent vision and technique, and due to playing as a defender as a teenager he also reads the game incredibly well. The only stumbling block could be the fact he may want to play in the Champions League with his current club next season, something which is understandable.
To be honest this one is way out of left field and took me a bit by surprise, but when I think about it I can see the sense in it. Today's Mirror is suggesting that we have joined the race alongside Arsenal and Spurs to sign the Benin international. Before you write him off as not being good enough, just think about it. With regards to FFP we can't go out spending £30M+ on the very best players, sometimes you have to identify players that would improve you but wouldn't cost the earth, Sess fits into that category. The 27 year old has given us no end of problems when we have come up against Sunderland and he has threatened many of the top teams, he also has Premier League experience which can be absolutely vital, he may not be a glamorous option be he is a better player than you think and would allow us to spend more money in other areas.
Muniain was part of the Athletic Bilbao team that absolutely tore Manchester United apart over both legs of their recent Europa League meeting. The 19 year old, who has been dubbed 'The Spanish Messi' appears to have all the potential to be an extremely exciting footballer, and could develop into a real great of the game. At 2 years younger than Hazard, obviously there could be complications with his development, but with his versatility (he can play on either wing or centrally) and the form he has demonstrated this season for Bilbao the signs are very positive, and personally he is a player I would love to see at City, ideally alongside his team mate Javi Martinez. The other downside with this option is the price, he wouldn't come cheap, and for a 19 year old it could be a massive gamble, but I just can't help but thinking it may be one worth taking.
There isn't much you can say about Bale that hasn't been said already, we already know all about his game and what a threat he can be. Unlike the other suggestions, the Welshman is an out and out winger as opposed to someone that can play through the middle as well, the fact that he can also play at fullback however could mean the end of Aleksandar Kolarov should Bale be the route we go down. His searing pace and fantastic delivery give him all the markings of a truly top player. He has been linked to Barcelona and Real Madrid over the course of the season and now that Spurs have been denied Champions League football they could face a fight to hang onto the Welshman. The downside of a move for Bale would be the price, buying players from the Premier League is obscenely expensive and I reckon it would cost close to £40M to prise him away and for that money I wonder if there might be better options out there.
Lucas Moura is a player that some of you may not be too aware of since he isn't plying his trade in Europe. Currently playing in his native Brazil for Sao Paulo the 19 year old is really making a name for himself as one of the brightest young talents that the country has produced. Inter Milan, Real Madrid and Chelsea have all failed in bids to bring the youngster to Europe, but the failure of the aforementioned club could play into our hands. It was reported last week that the Stamford Bridge side failed with a bid of £32M, and as a result have gone all out to sign Hazard. Clearly he is one of the more expensive options and with the history of Brazilians not living upto their potential there is a large element of risk here, but should he develop as expected he could be one of the leading lights of world football, a risk, but could pay huge dividends.
Gotze is a player that has seemingly been watched by every top club in the Premier League and it is probably time that we considered a swoop. For a good few years Manchester United have considered moving for the 19 year old German international but a concrete offer never seemed to materialise. It is now Arsenal that have seemingly began to show a great deal of interest in the talented youngster. The midfielder who can play wide and centrally has been an important part of the team that has won 2 consecutive Bundesliga titles and he is believed to be uneasy with the idea of leaving the resurgent Borussia Dortmund, so much so that he recently signed a contract extension that could keep him at the club until 2016. Either way Gotze is an excellent prospect and will in all likelihood develop into a very top player, he is a long shot, but money does talk and City could be an attractive proposition for the German.
A name known to all City fans after his exploits in the Champions League this year for Napoli. Most of the chatter regarding the 2 clubs has been over a move for Edinson Cavani, but the future of Lavezzi is far from clear as well. The Naples club have missed out on qualification for Europe's top competition and therefore may face a battle to keep there better players. The all action and committed Lavezzi could soon be on the way, and whilst many expect him to make the move to PSG, City are also rumoured to be interested. We have quite a collection of Argentines at this point and that would surely be something that would appeal to the 27 year old. The wideman can be a bit of a hot head and I do wonder whether we need another Argentinian with a questionable temperament but in footballing terms he would definitely be an asset, albeit an expensive one.
I still remain unsure that we actually need a player to work in the same areas as Nasri, Silva and Toure, but the clubs pursuit of Hazard would probably suggest we do. Personally I would always prefer to see the club go after a younger player and develop them as opposed to bringing in someone in their prime who would obviously cost more money and have less time at the top. The man for me is Iker Muniain, anyone who has watched much La Liga action this year will have seen the potential the Spaniard has, and should we manage to recruit both him and Martinez I think that would be some excellent player recruitment.