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Champions! But for how long? The big problems looming for Man City

COMMENT: The Carabao Cup. Now the Premier League. And there's also a trip to Wembley and the FA Cup to lift. An unprecedented Treble. Never before seen in English football. But as crazy as it sounds (yes, we know what we're inviting saying that). Those pulling the strings at Manchester City know they face a massive summer ahead.

Those cracks. That tension. Winning covers everything. Especially in this game. But City know. Pep Guardiola. Txiki Begiristain. Ferran Soriano. They all know. There's challenges on the horizon. From outside. But also from within. If this potential Treble is to be repeated. Better yet, if the Champions League crown is to be added to the Trophy Hall. Then Pep, Txiki and Soriano will need to put out those still smouldering spotfires which have sparked over the course of this campaign.

The most obvious is one this column touched upon a fortnight ago. The recalcitrants. The rebels. Ilkay Gundogan and Leroy Sane. They've both had their moments this season. Both have had an influence on this special campaign. But as things stand today, the pair will need to be replaced over the coming months.

Guardiola has already given up on Gundogan. The midfielder, with his deal about to enter it's final year, has refused to consider new contract talks. "We try to speak with him, we want him to extend the contract right now," says the manager. "But if he doesn't want to, we cannot do anything else."

Sane still has a year on his Germany teammate's deal, but like Gundogan has refused to enter meaningful discussions about an extension. The contrast, however, is the player and his relationship with Guardiola.

"...I prefer a type of player to have more control but my admiration and trust with him is intact," says Guardiola. "It's there but I always want more."

Significantly, Sane was left on the bench for Sunday's title decider at Brighton. Guardiola instead starting Riyad Mahrez, another to express frustration in past weeks, and being rewarded with a wonder goal on the day.

And left sitting alongside Sane in the away dugout was Gabriel Jesus. Again, like Sane, doubts have suddenly emerged about the Brazilian's place in City's future. Talk of a summer sale just won't go away.

And then there's the foundations. The veterans. Those Guardiola inherited and has managed to build his recording-breaking team around. Vincent Kompany intends to go around again. As does David Silva. And the currently sidelined Fernandinho. But they can't go on forever. Kompany will turn 34 next season. Silva also. And Fernandinho will be 35 before the campaign ends. It's stunning that all three - at that age - can still be making such an impact together in the same team. Have we ever seen this in modern times?

But, as we say, this trio will need to be replaced. Their ability. Their character. Their mental strength. City will have to find all such qualities from elsewhere as these titans play out their final days.

At the other end of the scale, there's another problem for Txiki and Soriano to address. City have been losing their young players. And at some rate. Phil Foden, for the moment, appears an outlier. Those coming through the system are unconvinced of a first team future with City.

Jadon Sancho, at Borussia Dortmund, is the headliner. But Angus Gunn, under Ralph Hasenhuttl, has found his feet at Southampton. Javairo Dilrosun played his way into the Holland squad after only moving to Hertha Berlin last summer. And as City were celebrating on the Amex pitch, Brahim Diaz was scoring his first goal for Real Madrid. That's some potential. Some talent. And it's all slipped City's net over the last 18 months.

But to counter. And perhaps also as a reaction. It has to be noted what emerged over the weekend. In Lisbon, they're stressing the Bruno Fernandes deal is just about over the line. And even more significantly is City's powerbrokers negotiating with Sporting CP first refusal on all academy talent. The club that gave Manchester UnitedCristiano Ronaldo and Nani is now - formally - about to sign off on an agreement that will see City now have first option.

It's a deal that epitomises today's Premier League champions. Always innovating. Always moving forward.

In this game, if you're standing still, you're going backwards. And for City, this won't be a summer to indulge in what they've just achieved. There's some definite problems looming. But given precedent. This season's champions have the people in place to be on top of it.

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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