Manchester City may well be preparing to cap off another simply incredible season with their fourth Premier League title in the past seven years but this ambitious side appear to be already preparing for the next campaign.
Riyad Mahrez was the only acquisition City felt fit to bring in after their record-breaking 2017/18 season, though their £60million record-signing has often felt surplus to requirements at times this season. His most memorable moment was arguably a missed penalty against Liverpool that meant the title race has been a lot closer than it should have been. His tally of six league goals is by far and away his worst haul since arriving in England.
A player Man City will be hoping will shine a little more brightly looks likely to be Bruno Fernandes. The Sporting CP playmaker is reported to be edging closer to a €40million-plus move to the Etihad, opting against a transfer to the Blues’ city rivals Manchester United.
The 24-year-old Fernandes has accumulated more than £15million in transfer fees across five clubs, most recently in 2017 he completed the circular trajectory in his home nation that began at Boavista through the youth system and concluded with Sporting.
€40,000 was all it took to bring him to Italy from Boavista in 2012, with spells at Novara, Udinese, and Sampdoria. He debuted back in Portugal at Sporting in 2017 with six goals in seven matches, and perhaps more impressively scored four of his first nine shots from outside the box. This season he’s taken over the mantle of Sporting’s most proficient scorer from teammate Bas Dost, and is currently two goals behind Benfica’s Haris Seferovic in the overall goalscoring charts with just two games left of the season.
Fernandes survived the turmoil that engulfed the closing stages of his inaugural season at Sporting, which saw the departure of coach Jorge Jesús and players William Carvalho, Gelson Martins, and Rui Patricio making haste amid their travails with then-club president Bruno Carvalho, which reached its crescendo with rumours of him instigating an ultras attack on the team coach.
Fernandes himself had his own contract with the Leões terminated, only to re-sign with the club following Carvalho’s stepping down, and now has a €100million bounty on his head. This year has seen him ice the cake that was him being proclaimed the Liga NOS’ 2018 Player of the Year by breaking an almost four-decade goalscoring record for a midfield, the kind of record-breaking talent Manchester City and manager Pep Guardiola salivate over, his attractiveness further enhanced by his versatility and willingness to also drop deep as well as his attacking midfield prowess.
Fernandes takes the opportunity to being fouled to produce his own set-pieces, confident in his skill from the dead-ball. His 2.3 key tackles in the 2017/18 Liga Nos has been slightly narrowed to 1.7 in the following season but still respectable when he has been required by new manager Marcel Keizer, who replaced José Peseiro on a permanent basis.
Manchester City are on course for just shy of 200 points collated across two seasons, with it being extremely hard to bet against them maintaining their dominance in England for the foreseeable future. Manchester United meanwhile have been consigned to at least one season without Champions League football, following a trophyless 18/19. The clamour around Fernandes’ exceptional talent is mounting, and it seems that this is another particular race the Red Devils are set to lose, the agony of their slump exacerbated by the likelihood of the midfielder’s skills enhancing one of their fiercest rivals.
For City, his recruitment wouldn’t be amiss in a glittering array of scintillating stars, that includes Fernandes’ compatriot Bernardo Silva, PFA Young Player of the Year Raheem Sterling, and Kevin de Bruyne, whose potential absence in the future through further injury that has dogged his most recent campaign, Guardiola and the City hierarchy are obviously preparing for and which Fernandes would be wholly appropriate.