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Pep, $500M & Kylian Mbappe: Why Man City move can happen

COMMENT: Ahh, so now it makes sense. That's why they did it. Okay, okay, we may be putting two and two together and getting five. Or better yet, selling a stake in Manchester City and getting $500m. But you can now see the thinking...

They need new foundations. It's as simple as that. Fourteen points behind Liverpool - we're not halfway through December and City have conceded. The players have publicly admitted their title defence is over. Pep Guardiola, the manager, conceding his squad aren't a patch on the elite of Barcelona, Juventus and the champions-elect. The denial is over. It's now being accepted throughout the club: this cycle is ending, City need to rebuild.

As Yaya Toure did before him, Vincent Kompany has gone. David Silva will leave in June. New contract talks have been suspended with Fernandinho. And Sergio Aguero will be 32 when next season kicks off. This great, great team. The best the club has seen. It's final remnants - the last of it's foundations - are walking away. And while the support crew are good, they're not the titans of an era that delivered four Premier League titles in seven years. New stars must be found. New leaders identified and signed. As Guardiola has conceded this week, things are quickly unravelling.

"We must accept it," stated Pep after the derby defeat to Manchester United. "This is the level at which we must compete, against teams like Liverpool, Manchester United, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Juventus. These are our opponents and the reality is that we probably can't compete with them right now.

"Maybe we have to live this situation like that of a club that has to improve..."

As Guardiola says, City are falling away - and fast. No Premier League club can afford to stand still. Not when a Leicester City or Wolves threaten the top four. Just ask Arsenal or United about team building and time - in this game, especially in England, you simply don't get any.

So come 2020, City will start again. The big spending will return. And you fancy the board's decision to sell 10 per cent in City Football Group for $500m was designed to help with this rebuild.

Of course, it's not about the money. City have a limitless supply of that. No, it's about the parameters of Financial Fair Play. And the deal with Silver Lake will go some way to increasing the scope of City's spending over the next year.

Indeed, without such an arrangement, the idea of competing with Real Madrid for Kylian Mbappe would be the stuff of fantasy calcio. But today? With $500m raised from out of the blue? Suddenly City's owners have the leeway to challenge the ideas of Florentino Perez, the Real president, of slapping €300m cash down to convince PSG to sell.

And City have a chance - a big chance - of bringing the world's most exciting young player to England next year. The irony being this battle is unlikely to be decided by money - but personality.

Which is where the value of Guardiola goes beyond any bottomline. Players want to work with the Catalan. Especially young players. And the opportunity to do so could be the decisive factor when the Mbappe family sit down to consider their options.

Of course at Real, there's Zinedine Zidane. And the mutual admiration is no secret. But there's no guarantee Zidane will be in the dugout at the Bernabeu next season. The word in Madrid is that a trophyless campaign will see Florentino ask Zidane to step down. An early candidate to succeed the Frenchman is Jorge Jesus, a fine coach, as has been confirmed with his success at Flamengo, but not someone Mbappe is anxious to play for.

In contrast, City have Pep. And along with the manager, among the selling points will be the opportunity to experience English football at a young enough age that he and his father can still land a future dream move to Madrid.

We know the Premier League is in the career plan. That famous trial at Chelsea's Cobham complex as a junior is proof enough that England is an ambition for the Mbappe clan. And City won't begrudge him viewing them as a stepping stone. Aguero thought the same when trying to engineer a way to get from Atletico Madrid to Real - and look how that finished.

After several years of buying around the edges. Of simply improving upon what they have. City are now being confronted by the need to rebuild.

They have the resources. And now they have the margins to put that to work. The prospect of Mbappe turning down Florentino a second time is all the more likely after City's share sale last month.

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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