Man City have playmaker priority amid contract talks with Riyad Mahrez’s future up for grabs – Alex Brotherton

With the January transfer window about to shut and the announcement of the signing of Julian Alvarez imminent, Manchester City can start looking ahead to the summer window.

Pep Guardiola’s side finds themselves in an unusual situation, in that four key first-team players have 18 months remaining on their contracts.

Raheem Sterling, Ilkay Gundogan, Riyad Mahrez and Gabriel Jesus are the players in question, meaning that City’s most important business over the next few months and beyond will be deciding what to do with them.

here at City Is Ours, we thought we’d play a ‘Snog, Marry, Avoid’ style game of predictions. Of course, City might renew the contracts of all four Blues, but for argument’s sake, we chose a different outcome for each.

Renew as a priority – Ilkay Gundogan

Gundogan is the oldest of the four – he will turn 32 in October – so offering him a new contract as a priority might sound odd at first.

However, when you consider his role in Guardiola’s side and other likely departures, it makes perfect sense.

There is no other midfielder in City’s squad quite like the German. While he is probably not on the level of Bernardo Silva or Kevin De Bruyne in terms of creativity and individual genius, his ability to find passes in tight spaces and to read the game are unmatched.

He is the safest City midfielder in possession and brings balance between the defensive Rodri and the attackers further forward.

With Fernandinho likely to leave the club at the end of the season, Guardiola cannot afford to lose another central midfielder. As City looks to the future, Gundogan can be a guide and mentor for young midfielders like James McAtee.

Ilkay Gundogan has named Chelsea midfielder N'Golo Kante as his toughest opponent ahead of Saturday's clash with Manchester City.  (Photo by Simon Stacpoole/Offside/Offside via Getty Images)
City don’t have any other midfielders quite like Ilkay Gundogan

Wait and see – Raheem Sterling

Sterling’s contract situation has rumbled on for a while now and it appears that the player himself wants to see how the rest of the season pans out before committing to a new deal.

This time last year, Raheem was in Pep’s best XI before his form dipped and he endured a fairly dismal 2021.

Over the past two months he has returned to his brilliant best. If he can maintain that level it would be surprising if he doesn’t sign a new deal.

Everyone knows just how important Sterling is to City’s attack, whether he’s playing on the left or right-wing. At 27 he still has plenty of elite-level football left in him, but for things to work out, he has got to want to stay at the Etihad. Let’s sit on this one for a bit.

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Sell ​​- Gabriel Jesus

It’s painful to write this, but if City had to sell one of these four players, then it should be Gabriel Jesus.

There’s no denying that Jesus has been a valuable asset to City over the years, particularly this season in his new role on the right-wing. Few players – Bernardo aside – are as hardworking and fully committed to the cause as Jesus, qualities that Guardiola values ​​above all others.

But at 24 – 25 come the summer – he is the most sellable of the quartet, and he one of City’s more expendable attackers.

The arrival of Alvarez and pursuit of Erling Haaland could spell the end of his days as a City striker. If Sterling maintains its current form and signs a new deal, it is harder to find a place for him on the right flank.

Jesus is a good and popular player, but he has never really been clinical enough. He should fetch a decent price that can contribute to new summer recruits.

Just like you, we can’t get enough of Manchester City! That’s why we’ve decided to supplement our expansive City coverage on the Manchester Evening News with a more fan-oriented platform catered specifically to City fans – City Is Ours.

Writers and presenters who share your passion for the blue side of Manchester will be producing written, visual and audio content to reflect the mood in the stands as well as the press box.

Follow our team on Twitter (@DomFarrell1986 and @alex_brotherton)!

Let contract run down – Riyad Mahrez

Riyad Mahrez played a crucial role in City reaching the Champions League final last season, while this term he has been one of our most reliable sources of goals.

However, the Algerian will turn 31 next month it makes sense to reserve judgment on how his priceless pace and agility hold up in the autumn of his career.

The signing of Alvarez gives City a fresh, younger option in attack and Sterling is once again a rival for Mahrez’s favored right-wing berth.

Riyadh is simply wonderful to watch and still offers an awful lot so there is no rush to move him on but, in 18 months’ time, it could be the point we say farewell.

Do you agree with our picks? Follow our City Is Ours writer Alex Brotherton on Twitter to get involved in the discussion and give us your thoughts in the comments section below.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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