Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has heaped praise on “excellent” Wolves midfielder Ruben Neves but emphatically denies he is lining up a £100m summer bid.
The Portugal international has excelled since relocating to the Molineux in 2017 and has been linked with move to the Etihad as a result of his recent form.
Would Neves be a good fit at City? Five things to know…
- City are set to be in the market for a holding midfielder in the summer with Fernandinho turning 34 in a few months time.
- Guardiola has been forced to utilise John Stones in midfield recently with no obvious Fernandinho replacement at the club.
- Neves has thrived in midfield for Wolves this season and possesses all the technical attributes of a Guardiola player.
- At 21, Neves has been seen as the ideal, long-term successor to the ageing Fernandinho, who will see his contract expire next season.
- Neves has made more passes (1099) than any other Wolves player in the Premier League this season.
Guardiola’s attempts to bolster his midfield were thwarted over the summer after he failed to secure the signature of Jorginho, but he insists he will not be pulling out all the stops this time to lure Neves to the north west.
“A month ago, I started reading: ‘Rúben Neves, £100million,’” the City manager said. “That is not going to happen, we are not going to pay £100 million for a holding midfielder.
“We have a limit and cannot spend more. We try to be stable in everything.”
Neves is yet to be tested in a three-man midfield, with manager Nuno Espirito Santo favouring a two-man partnership with Joao Moutinho deployed alongside his compatriot.
Despite this, Guardiola has made no secret of his admiration for Neves, who lacks the physical edge of Fernandinho, but presents an equally intimidating presence in the heart of midfield.
“He’s an excellent player,” Guardiola added. “[Playing him] involves playing with two holding midfielders, not just one, but he’s an excellent player.”
If City fail to make a bid for Neves, the Portuguese midfielder may well still find his way to Manchester, with United being linked with a move in the past.
The Red Devils beat their Manchester rivals to the signings of Alexis Sanchez and Fred in 2018, while Neves would be a well-received addition to the squad at Old Trafford.
Former United manager Jose Mourinho was a big admirer of his compatriot, saying after the two sides drew 1-1 at Old Trafford in September: “These two Portuguese boys (Neves and Moutinho), they are both the kind of player that likes to bite, that likes to short distance, to press, they don’t give long time for you to have the ball, to turn, one touch, two touches, you don’t have much of that.”
Who else is on Guardiola’s transfer shortlist?
There is no question a central midfielder will be top of the agenda come the summer and there have been a number of notable players rumoured to be in Guardiola’s crosshairs.
One player who looks destined to leave their current club come the end of the season is Ajax midfielder Frenkie de Jong, who has attracted fervent interest across the continent.
The coveted 21-year-old is being tracked by the likes of Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain, but he is reportedly at the top of City’s wish-list, with Guardiola keen to secure his services.
A product of the Amsterdam club’s esteemed academy, De Jong would present a cheaper option to City than Neves, but it is still likely the club would need to break a transfer record to sign him
An elegant central midfielder, De Jong’s expansive passing range and innate positional play are symptomatic of a Guardiola player, and while he certainly lacks the physical edge of Fernandinho, as does Neves, he would add significant technical ability to the City midfield.