Koulibaly, Kounde, Gimenez or Dias? Man City's search for Kompany's replacement testing Pep's patience

Vincent Kompany Pep Guardiola Kalidou Koulibaly Manchester City GFX
Pep Guardiola faces Leicester City on Sunday without the experienced defender he has wanted since his influential skipper said farewell last year

It was close to 18 months ago that Vincent Kompany capped a farewell performance for Manchester City fans with the greatest goal of his career.

With the club needing a win over Leicester City to maintain their slim advantage over Liverpool in an epic Premier League title race, but the game goalless and just 15 minutes remaining, the captain thundered a spectacular 25-yard strike into the top corner.

Although his departure was not announced until after the championship was secured the following weekend at Brighton, Kompany left the pitch in tears, knowing that it would be his final magical moment at the Etihad Stadium.

City also knew as Kompany exited to rapturous applause that they would have to find a worthy successor to one of their finest ever servants.

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Given the Belgian's latter years had been interrupted by persistent muscle injuries, the club required a reliable, strong and dominant centre-back to anchor the the defence alongside Aymeric Laporte. 

Remarkably, Pep Guardiola is still waiting for a replacement.

The situation was supposed to have been sorted last summer, when Harry Maguire was their top target.

However, for some time now, City have been keen to avoid paying premium prices for players, trying to alter the perception that they are extravagant spenders

Just as they walked away from colossal deals for Alexis Sanchez and Fred, they refused to pay a world-record fee for Maguire, who eventually joined rivals Manchester United instead for £80 million ($97m).

While it made it good sense from a financial perspective to overlook the overpriced England international, the decision left them short of time to sign an alternative and they paid the price on the pitch. 

John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi struggled for consistency, so veteran midfielder Fernandinho was asked to provide emergency cover at the back, while academy player Eric Garcia became a regular in the senior squad.

The net result was that City were stripped of solidity. Defensive errors became commonplace and proved so costly that Guardiola had to effectively concede the 2019-20 title to Liverpool before the turn of the year.

A centre-back could have been signed in January, of course, but given the usual lack of value during the winter window, City decided against making a move in the market.

However, there is no excuse for the fact that City have yet to land one of their preferred options as the close of the summer transfer window approaches.

Two weeks into the 2020-21 season, a new centre-back has still not walked into the Etihad Stadium.

As he is the final year of his contract, Guardiola does not want to waste too much time nurturing and improving someone’s game. He wants a player for now; not the future.

Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibably was the priority but a deal for the Frenchman was complicated by the club’s acrimonious relationship with the Italian club.

City were unhappy with the way in which they lost out on former Partenopei midfielder Jorginho, who joined Chelsea in the summer of 2018 after looking certain to move to Manchester.

City believed that the player had been pressured into following Maurizio Sarri to Stamford Bridge by Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis, whom they privately felt had displayed an "unprecedented lack of professionalism".

Consequently, City's negotiations with Napoli over a possible deal for Koulibaly are being done through advisers. Given De Laurentiis publicly wondered earlier this month if "serious" talks could really be done in "such conditions", it's hardly surprising that a stalemate has ensued.

Kalidou Koulibaly Jose Gimenez Jules Kounde Ruben Dias Napoli Atletico Sevilla Benfica GFX

City were willing to break their normal parameters of age and potential for a new signing by paying a big fee for a 29-year-old because Guardiola wanted someone capable of going straight into his starting line-up.

But that perceived desperation, coupled with De Laurentiis' desire to make as much as possible on his most valuable asset, saw the Serie A club adapt an aggressive bargaining position and hopes of a breakthrough would now appear to be dead.

As a result, City are now looking elsewhere, with Atletico Madrid’s Jose Gimenez, Sevilla’s Jules Kounde and Benfica’s Ruben Dias all on their shortlist.

Gimenez, at 25, is the most experienced but also the most expensive. Atletico president Enrique Cerezo claimed the Spanish club had rejected a £78m ($99m) bid from City but club sources insist they have no intention of spending that sort of money.

Sevilla sporting director Monchi said they had turned down a bid for Kounde, with sources telling Goal that the 21-year-old French defender’s release cause is worth between €80m and €90m (£82m/$105m).

On Friday, City opened talks with Benfica over the signing of Portuguese international Dias in a deal that could see Otamendi move in the opposite direction.

The Eagles need to sell after failing to qualify for the Champions League, while Otamendi is seen as surplus to requirements at the Etihad and would, thus, prove an ideal makeweight.

City have given themselves options, then, but we are heading towards a game of brinkmanship between a clutch of clubs to see who will blink first and accept a bid before the October 5 deadline.

Sporting director Txiki Begiristain will not be held to ransom in negotiations but the clock is ticking and Guardiola's patience is about to run out.