Manchester City: Is Miralem a Pjanic buy?

Pep Guardiola has played down rumours of a move for the Bosnian midfielder, but could there be fire behind the smoke?

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Football is littered with the shredded remains of such bold assertions. Whether it’s questionable player loyalty or club’s masking their transfer intentions, it’s becoming harder to accept these statements as the ultimate truth on the matter.

Pjanic is a player of Juventus and we are not interested in him. He is a top player, but we are not interested in him – Pep Guardiola

While we can’t see the duck’s legs churning below the surface regarding Manchester City’s transfer plans this summer, it seems like failing to sign Jorginho has hurt their ambitions.

But beyond talk of subterfuge, the fact remains that Pep Guardiola has the funds and space in his squad for a new central midfielder. A central midfielder who could very much look like Juventus’ Miralem Pjanic.

If Guardiola was to make a U-turn and become interested in Pjanic, would the Bosnian be a good option to fill the Jorginho-shaped hole at the Etihad?

Time not on his side

Having inherited an ageing squad when he arrived in Manchester, Guardiola has regularly bought young players into the club. 

At 28-years-old, Pjanic would be the oldest arrival since Nolito joined the Citizens in 2016. This seems like a small move away from the transfer policy seemingly in pace at the Etihad. Whilst Kyle Walker and Riyad Mahrez were both 27 when they were turned sky blue, the central midfield void which Pjanic would be filling is ideally shaped for a younger player to grow into.

Fernandinho just turned 33 and – despite playing 3,900 minutes of football for City last season – he can’t be relied on again to put in that level of contribution.

Moreover, that’s before factoring in his involvement with Brazil at the World Cup. Couple that with an injury prone Ilkay Gundogan, and City’s need for a central midfielder becomes clear.

Is it practical, however, to replace a player on his last legs with another close to losing their legs? In fairness, the role at the base of City’s midfield doesn’t require relentless energy, rather a careful appreciation of space and how best to make yourself a passing option. It’s one Pjanic plays for Juventus, though Serie A is considerably slower-paced than the Premier League.

A manager’s dream

One thing that can’t be disputed is the talent Pjanic would bring with him. 

The Bosnian midfielder is perhaps more similar to David Silva than either Fernandinho or Gundogan though. Having begun his career in an advanced midfield role, he can play centrally or on either side of the pitch and has more recently taken up a deeper position with the Old Lady.

REUTERS/Sergio Perez

It was in this defensive anchor role that he excelled for the Old Lady last season, cementing it as his best position. But while he achieved an almost identical 90% passing accuracy to Fernandinho last season, he was less involved in his team’s play than the Brazilian.

Averaging around 20 less passes per game – 66.7 compared to Fernandinho’s 87.5 – and making less tackles – 1.2 per game vs 1.8 – and less clearances – 0.8 per game vs 1.9 – there is a small question mark regarding his defensive discipline.

Having played as a defensive midfielder during his own playing career, Guardiola would seem perfectly placed to enhance this side of Pjanic’s game though.

An expensive option

With a new agent in Fali Ramadani, it is perhaps of little surprise that a rash of speculation has broken out regarding Pjanic’s future. A player who has established himself in Turin since arriving there two years ago, Juventus have stated they wish to keep their midfielder.

The €100m arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo and an increasing wage bill, however, could be part of the reason many believe they will listen to offers.

With a new contract having lain unsigned for over a month now and the arrival of Emre Can in the Old Lady’s midfield, rumours have grown that a hefty price tag has been placed on Pjanic’s head. 

This would be a significant amount more than City were prepared to spend on Jorginho. For a club who also pulled out of deals to sign Alexis Sanchez and Fred this year due to inflated financial demands, they would seem unlikely to wilt under such pressure.

If City can negotiate a more reasonable price, Guardiola’s interest levels may just begin to rise.

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