One of the major priorities for Manchester City heading into the upcoming transfer window is to strengthen their fragile defence.
Aymeric Laporte's injury earlier this season really highlighted how weak and thin City were at the back and many have talked up the need for the club to bring in a world class defender in order to challenge for the title next season, with Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly the name on everyone's lips.
Koulibaly has long been rumoured to want out of Naples, and while a move for the Senegal international would certainly strengthen the Citizens' back line, the centre back would likely cost a pretty hefty transfer fee, one City would be wise to avoid. The Napoli star turns 30 next season and would only provide a short-term solution to a long-term issue that's troubled Pep Guardiola's side.
Guardiola would be wise to avoid falling into old habits and resist spending a huge transfer fee on an ageing defender who's time at the top is limited. Instead, City should look to their youth and entrust Eric Garcia to partner Laporte ahead of next season.
Yes, City relying on youth instead of bringing in some star from one of Europe's top leagues for big money would be the complete opposite of what they've done since the Abu Dhabi United Group arrived 12 years ago, but it's never too late to change.
The club only needs to look at their poor record when it comes to signing defenders to re-enforce the need to give Garcia the starting centre back nod and give him the chance to establish himself as a first-team regular. John Stones, Eliaquim Mangala, Nicolas Otamendi and Martin Demichelis have all been brought in to fix City's defensive issues in recent years, but each have failed to impress at the Etihad and struggled to cement their place in the first team. With Garcia, City have the chance to fix those longstanding issues from within their own ranks.
The Spaniard has featured in six of City's ten games following the Premier League's return in June and has proven himself to be strong, composed and relatively error free, qualities the club have struggled to find in the majority of their ventures into the transfer window over the last decade.
Guardiola himself is a self-confessed Garcia fan, recently sharing his admiration for the former Barcelona youngster, with the former Bayern Munich manager saying: "Eric never, ever makes defensive mistakes. He knows we want him."
Former club Barcelona are interested in bringing the 19-year-old back to Camp Nou, but the Citizens should keep hold of the centre back and watch him flourish into a firm fixture at the back, something Guardiola agrees on.
The City manager has made it clear he wants Garcia to remain a City player for a long time adding: "We are going to try convince him to stay here for many, many, many years. He knows, his agent knows, his family knows that we want him."
With City's apparent eagerness to hold onto Garcia for the foreseeable future, bringing in another centre back to displace him in the first team would cast serious doubt over his future at the Etihad. The best way to secure the long-term future of the young Spaniard would be to give him the chance to cement his place in the first team and develop a formidable partnership alongside Laporte.
That's not to say City shouldn't recruit defenders in the upcoming transfer window. In fact, they'd be smart to do so, with their defence in serious need of reinforcements. However, that doesn't mean they need to spend big on a centre back who would likely replace Garcia in the starting lineup, and especially not one who's set to turn 30 next summer.
While the decision to entrust Garcia with the starting role would likely have growing pains, as demonstrated against Arsenal in the FA Cup semi final, if given the chance to properly develop alongside Laporte, City could finally have the answer to their long-term centre back woes.
Source : 90min