Man City transfer contrast to Manchester United and Liverpool FC backs up chairman’s point

Manchester City’s presence in the transfer market stretches further than their first-team level, as Man United and Liverpool are linked with a former Blues midfielder.

With Declan Rice bound for Arsenal, the race is on to find the next-best defensive midfielder on the market this summer.

Brighton’s Moises Caicedo isn’t far away from the gossip columns, but won’t come cheap, while Manchester City may persevere with Rodri, Kalvin Phillips and Mateo Kovacic as their number six options.

If the reports are to be believed, Manchester United and Liverpool are searching for a defensive midfielder if one is available, and City academy graduate Romeo Lavia is said to be interesting a number of top clubs – United, for one, are monitoring the Belgian.

City sold Lavia to Southampton last summer for £10.5m, potentially rising to £14m, in a deal that represented good value for a player with only a handful of senior involvements. He had outgrown youth football, and the transfer fee was thought to be worth accepting rather than loaning him out.

Fast forward 12 months and Lavia played a key role for Southampton last season, despite their relegation. The 19-year-old impressed sufficiently to catch the eye of other clubs, and Southampton are reported to want between £40m and £50m for him, representing huge profit.

City could benefit if Lavia does leave thanks to their 20 per cent sell-on clause, and also have the ability to match any offer Southampton receive for the midfielder, plus an unspecified buy-back clause. That buy-back option is a matter of conflicting reports, with some suggesting it is only active in 2024.

Whatever happens with Lavia, the fact that City’s rivals are interested in their academy graduates reinforces the fact that City are doing things right when it comes to maximising value from their youngsters. As well as Lavia, City sold three other youngsters to Southampton for a total of nearly £40m, while they have generated tens of millions from sales and sell-on clauses for the likes of Lukas Nmecha, Jadon Sancho, Brahim Diaz and more.

This summer, goalkeeper James Trafford is set to join Burnley for an initial £15m having only played at League One level before his impressive U21 Euro form, while Taylor Harwood-Bellis could be another player to generate some incoming money. If Lavia does leave Southampton, City’s transfer fund could be boosted further.

Compare that to United’s sale of the highly-rated Zidane Iqbal for less than £1m. He was as far away from the United first team as Lavia and Trafford were at City, yet the Blues are selling their best youngsters for millions of pounds at a time.

It’s a trend not lost on City chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak, who noted in his annual interview that buying clubs are noting the work the Blues put in when developing players, with transfer fees reflecting that.

“I think that professionalism, that level of development and then the carefulness, we’re very careful in how we develop these young players and that’s respected by the entire industry, which is why they’re being targeted today,” he explained.

“Why is everybody scouting City players? Well, they’re good, of course, but it’s not just because they’re good. It’s because they know we have a philosophy, we have a system, we have a track record of producing incredible, talented players, champions and that some players end up obviously with us and then in the first team, others end up going and having great careers.”

Look at new Borussia Dortmund signing Felix Nmecha. City opted against offering Nmecha a new contract after his academy form in order to allow him a better opportunity elsewhere. He joined Wolfsburg to link up with brother Lukas, and now Dortmund have spent €30million to sign him. City may have lost out on a sell-on boost, but the big-money move is another example of top clubs targeting City-educated players.

If Trafford leaves, City will be operating at a positive net spend this summer, having banked £10m from Sporting’s permanent sale of Pedro Porro, with him and Trafford cancelling out the £25m to sign Kovacic. The arrival of someone like Josko Gvardiol would put City back in the red, although Lavia and other potential sales would put City well ahead of United (£60m), Arsenal (£170) and Liverpool (£95m) when it comes to summer spending so far.

Notably, CEO Ferran Soriano made a point this week that City’s net spend is better than their rivals, with their academy sales again contributing heavily.

The very fact that United and Liverpool are interested in Lavia proves to illustrate the point made by Al Mubarak, and underlines City’s growing dominance in the transfer market and academy football.

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