Manchester City seem ready to do something they haven’t done in four years: sign a player in the January transfer window.
The Blues are close to agreeing an initial £17.9m deal for 21-year-old River Plate striker Julián Álvarez, although the Argentine is expected to stay where he is until at least the summer.
After City failed to sign Harry Kane last year, speculation over which striker they would target in 2022 has raged for months.
Álvarez, who scored 18 goals in 21 league games in the 2021 Primera División season, will help satisfy Pep Guardiola’s appetite for a new leader. But is that the end of the matter?
There are a number of intriguing permutations to unpack.
No one knows for sure where City stand in the race to sign Erling Haaland, although the striker is believed to prefer a move to Real Madrid.
Whether this is true or not, from City’s point of view signing Alvarez would not rule them out from pursuing the Borussia Dortmund man as well.
The Blues have the resources and squad space to incorporate both, and with Haaland having far more experience at the elite level than Alvarez, that might not be a bad idea.
Precisely when Álvarez joins City is believed to depend on how River progress in the 2022 Copa Libertadores. If Marcelo Gallardo’s men reach the latter stages, their star forward is likely to remain in Buenos Aires until November before the Copa del Rey. World of 2022 midseason.
That would leave Guardiola without the striker he craves, so Haaland could still happen.
While a move for Harry Kane seemed dead in the water following last summer’s disasters, there’s a plausible argument that it’s still possible.
If Haaland goes to Real Madrid and Álvarez can stay in Argentina for another year, City would need an elite striker.
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While Kane will be 29 at the start of next season, City could still take at least two years off him before he starts to decline. If Guardiola signs him to a three-year deal, the first two years would see Kane lead the Blues’ attack.
In the third year, the main attacking role could pass to Álvarez after a year or two learning from Kane, with the England captain providing support as a backup.
Perhaps it’s a bit fanciful to expect Kane to agree to such a short-term plan, but after another trophyless year with Spurs on the books, it’s easy to imagine him being influenced.
With City set to sign an exciting young prospect and another striker possibly set to follow him, some fans are understandably concerned about the future of Liam Delap.
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The 19-year-old academy product was destined for great things this season in a strikerless City team, but injuries have robbed him of a potential breakout campaign.
If City bring in another striker besides Álvarez, will he get any playing time?
City currently appear keen to keep Delap as Guardiola is reluctant to send him on loan this month.
In some ways, he could benefit from learning from more experienced strikers during training. If he fails to secure regular football in the next few years, he could look to leave but, for now, a new striker or two could benefit Delap’s development.
What permutations do you think City signing Julián Álvarez could have? follow our Town is our writer Alex Brotherton on Twitter to join in the discussion and give us your feedback in the comments section below.