Guardi­ola in tough hunt for ‘new’ Fer­nand­inho

The Borneo Post - - SPORT -

MANCH­ESTER, Uni t ed King­dom: Pep Guardi­ola has ac­knowl­edged find­ing a long-term re­place­ment for Fer­nand­inho is be­com­ing a mat­ter of in­creas­ing ur­gency for Manch­ester City.

The 33-year- old Brazil­ian has be­come one of the most im­por­tant play­ers in City’s line-up dur­ing Guardi­ola’s three sea­sons at the club, with his hard work and pass­ing abil­ity as a hold­ing mid­fielder pro­vid­ing both se­cu­rity in front of the de­fence and scope for the team to at­tack.

Reign­ing cham­pi­ons City have lost just one of the 19 Premier League matches in which Fer­nand­inho has played, whereas they have been de­feated in both of the games he has missed.

Guardi­ola does not ap­pear to have a deputy of the same qual­ity — John Stones, nor­mally a cen­tre­back, strug­gled in the role when Crys­tal Palace won at the Eti­had Sta­dium on De­cem­ber 22, while Ilkay Gun­do­gan has not been en­tirely con­vinc­ing ei­ther.

City have been linked with a move for Frenkie de Jong from Ajax at the end of this sea­son, but the Dutch mid­fielder is at­tract­ing sig­nif­i­cant in­ter­est from other clubs too.

Guardi­ola ac­knowl­edges he can­not ex­pect Fer­nand­inho, signed from Shakhtar Donetsk in 2013, to play as much for City as he gets older, adding a solution has to be found for next sea­son.

“It’s not easy to find the spe­cific qual­ity of the play­ers,” said Guardi­ola.

“Maybe there aren’t many, but there are play­ers who can play in that role.”

The for­mer Barcelona and Bay­ern Mu­nich boss added: “Specif­i­cally with Fer­nand­inho’s role, it’s so dif­fi­cult to find. He knows the Premier League, af­ter three years to­gether here, he knows every­thing and that’s so im­por­tant.

“But, of course, for the next sea­son it’s an im­por­tant tar­get to find. He’ll be 34 and he can­not play ev­ery few days.”

There have been re­ports in Bri­tish news­pa­pers sug­gest­ing Wolves’ Por­tuguese mid­fielder Ruben Neves may be a long-term re­place­ment for Fer­nand­inho, al­though their roles are slightly dif­fer­ent.

Neves, whose Wolves side visit the Eti­had on Mon­day, tends to play as one of two hold­ing mid­field­ers, whereas Fer­nand­inho per­forms that role on his own in the City line-up.

“Ruben Neves is an ex­cel­lent player,” said Guardi­ola, whose sec­ond-placed side will be look­ing to cut Liver­pool’s seven-point lead at the top of the ta­ble.

“The sys­tem at Wolves in­volves playi ng with two holdi ng mid­field­ers, not just one. But he’s an ex­cel­lent player.

“There are many clubs in the world, many hold­ing mid­field­ers in the world, and most of them can play here. That’s not the point. The point is that most of them are un­der con­tracts.”

But Guardi­ola in­sisted, for all City’s wealth, there were lim­its to even their trans­fer bud­get.

“A month ago, I started read­ing: ‘ Ruben Neves, 100 mil­lion ( 129 mil­lion, 112 mil­lion eu­ros)’. That is not go­ing to hap­pen. We are not go­ing to pay 100 mil­lion for a hold­ing mid­fielder. — AFP

Pep Guardi­ola

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