Football

Man City manager Pep Guardiola plots title charge with summer upheaval

Alaba, Koulibaly and Martinez linked to Man City, after Guardiola handed $260m warchest

As the dust settles from Manchester City's successful appeal against Uefa's two-year European ban, the wheels have been set in motion for a summer overhaul as Pep Guardiola plots to wrest the English Premier League title back from Liverpool.

Media reports in England have linked Inter Milan striker Lautaro Martinez, Bayern Munich left-back David Alaba and Napoli centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly with moves to the Etihad, now that Guardiola has been reportedly handed a war chest of about £150 million (S$262.4m).

Koulibaly, who could cost up to £70m, is seen as an ideal candidate to partner Aymeric Laporte and shore up City's backline, reported Sky Sports.

The Senegalese, who turns 30 next year, still has three years left on his contract. He is also reportedly on the shortlist of giants such as Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain, but he insisted that he is willing to stay in Naples.

"In football, you never know what happens. I never spoke to Napoli about leaving," he told Gazzetta dello Sport.

"I am 100 per cent Napoli and it bothers me to be linked, every day, to this or that club. We will see what the president (Aurelio de Laurentiis) will decide and, if he proposes to extend my contract, that would allow me to end my career here."

City's defence could also see another new face. Sky Germany reported that former Bayern coach Guardiola is keen to be reunited with left-back David Alaba, whose contract with the Bavarian giants runs out next summer and has been stalling on a new deal.

BAYERN CONNECTION

The 28-year-old Austrian, who has also been linked with Barcelona, can also play at centre-back, a position that Guardiola is too keen to strengthen, having had to play midfielder Fernandinho there at times.

In attack, City have earmarked Martinez as the successor to club record goalscorer Sergio Aguero.

The 22-year-old Argentina striker, who has scored 18 goals in 39 games for Inter this season, is refusing to extend his contract, which expires at the end of the 2022/23 season.

Barcelona are also interested in the striker but, unlike City, they could find it tough to meet the £98.5m release clause for Martinez.

It was business as usual for City on the field yesterday, after they defeated relegation battlers Bournemouth 2-1 at the Etihad.

Goals from David Silva and Gabriel Jesus gave City a comfortable lead, but substitute David Brooks' 88th-minute goal ensured a nervy finish for the hosts.

"It was difficult, but our opponents played really well, they were really good and they pushed us a lot," Guardiola said.

"Their needs are higher than ours but we played our game."

City have secured second place in the EPL behind champions Liverpool and next face Arsenal on Sunday morning (Singapore time) in the FA Cup semi-finals.

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