After nine years, the love affair on and off the pitch that has blossomed between Manchester City and key veteran midfielder Fernandinho is set to come to an end when his contract winds down come the end of the season.
The current club captain, Fernandinho can be credited as one of the key catalysts for the club’s success on the pitch – irrespective of financial backing – over the years, helping the club earn eleven major to the tune of four Premier League titles, six League Cup’s, one FA Cup, and an appearance in the final of the Champions League.
— City Xtra (@City_Xtra) April 12, 2022
With a desire to play, Fernandinho has decided to return to his native Brazil after consulting his family, with his status in the starting XI largely diminished due to the form and influence of Spanish international midfielder Rodri.
As Man City will now face life without one of the club’s greatest servants of the Premier League era, the question now becomes just how Pep Guardiola and the club’s leadership will intend on replacing the Brazilian international in the upcoming summer transfer window.
Now 36-years-old, Fernandinho managed just six starts in the league this season and another seven substitute appearances despite being in the matchday squad on 31-occasions. But despite his lack of minutes, his profile as a player has always been clear and as such, the recruitment remit will likely be another long-term option that is both capable of slotting into a central midfield role, but also deeper as a ball-winner capable of shielding the back four while being tidy in possession and capable of progressing play both with the ball at his feet as well as through his range of passing.
Given that criteria while citing key data points via FBRef, here are five midfielders that Manchester City could look to in the summer to replace Fernandinho.
Boubacar Kamara (22; Olympique de Marseille)
One of the outstanding performers for an Olympique de Marseille outfit under Jorge Sampaoli that is currently sitting second in Ligue 1, 22-year-old former French youth international Boubacar Kamara is a hot commodity coming into the summer window. The likes of Atlético Madrid, Manchester United, West Ham, Tottenham, and Inter Milan are all tracking the Marseille native who is available on a free after deciding to run his contract down, but there is scope to suggest he could fit the bill for City under Guardiola.
An excellent passer who has excelled in a holding midfield role at the Orange Vélodrome, his age profile makes him ideally suited as a long-term successor to Fernandinho, and also potentially Rodri. His bit-part appearances at center-back offer some tactical flexibility as well, but as an out-and-0ut shield that can suit a possession-based system, he should be considered.
Cheick Doucouré (22; Racing Club de Lens)
The second of three young midfielders who have been impressive in Ligue 1 this season, Racing Club de Lens standout Cheick Doucouré has been not just one of the top performers for Les Sang et Or under manager Franck Haise, but one of the outstanding central players in the French top flight. More capable in the final third than the aforementioned Kamara and far more progressive in every department while still being a presence on the defensive side of the ball, Doucouré is unquestionably destined for a move away from northern France at some stage.
Fitting the bill for what City requires in a central player while having the mobility to withstand a pressing system, this could be a potential steal in the summer for Guardiola’s men which could certainly draw comparisons to former midfield dynamo Yaya Touré given their similar traits at both ends of the pitch.
Maxence Caqueret (22; Olympique Lyonnais)
Perhaps not one of the names that many would have considered for a long-term Fernandinho replacement for no other reason than his name has not been up in lights in the same vein as others in certain footballing circles, but Olympique Lyonnais youngster Maxence Caqueret could be one of the under-the-radar options for Manchester City. A good passer in his own right, what stands out most about Caqueret is his utility on the defensive side of the game and how strong of a presser he is.
Stout in the tackle and capable of reading the passing lanes in a similar vein, Caqueret has long been thought of as a player for the future for France after having been capped at all youth levels heavily. Making the step up to Manchester City and working under Guardiola could accelerate a rise to prominence in short order.
Amadou Haïdara (24; RB Leipzig)
Another name that has been linked with the Premier League, but not Manchester City, has been RB Leipzig’s Amadou Haïdara. Long-targeted by rivals Manchester United, City could potentially target the 24-year-old Malian international not just to steal a march on one of their potential title rivals in the future, but to give them a central option that very similarly replicates Fernandinho’s profile in almost every single department (listed below).
Though he recently sustained an MCL injury that will keep him out of the majority of the rest of the season, Haïdara has been a real bright spot at Leipzig and has increased his presence even more as Leipzig embarked on a resurgent run under Dominico Tedesco. His box-to-box presence makes him capable at both ends of the pitch while also valuable around the opposition’s defensive area, and his ability to contribute in all phases of play cannot go unnoticed.
Matheus Nunes (23; Sporting CP)
Already dreaming of playing under Pep Guardiola at Manchester City, the stars may have already aligned for Portuguese midfielder Matheus Nunes after the player has ruled out a move to the national hotbed in England via Wolves while Guardiola already labeled him one of the best players in the world after their recent clash in the Champions League. There is certainly a lot to like about Nunes as well, but by comparison, the 23-year-old native of Rio de Janeiro struggles to truly stack up against some of the other names mentioned.
Despite being one of the better players when it comes to successful pressures, the rest of the data on Nunes paints a picture of someone who is balanced in all phases of play, which is certainly a strength in itself. Guardiola’s ability to mold and develop talent into what he requires on the pitch means that Nunes is arguably one of the better canvases available that simply needs the paint to start being applied.
How they stack up against each other
Note: All data collated from FBRef (npxG + xA = non-penalty expected goals + expected assists, SCA = shot-creating actions, PP = progressive passes, PC = progressive carries)
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