How Alves snub ensured Man City went from Van Dijk & Bonucci to Jonny Evans

Van Dijk Evans Bonucci
The Blues' transfer plans have changed considerably since the end of May and the Northern Irishman is now the only centre-back who ticks all the boxes


Manchester City went into this summer looking for a strong, experienced defender capable of standing in for Vincent Kompany and mentoring John Stones, but having chased Virgil van Dijk and Leonardo Bonucci, they are now hoping to complete a move for Jonny Evans before the transfer window closes on August 31.

City's transfer plans have changed constantly throughout the summer, though Dani Alves' last-minute decision to snub Pep Guardiola and join Paris Saint-Germain has proven a major blow with wide-reaching consequences.

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At the start of the summer City had intended, ideally, to sign nine players. The priorities were four new full-backs, Ederson, Bernardo Silva and Alexis Sanchez. A centre-back and Kylian Mbappe (or an alternative forward, such as Ousmane Dembele) were regarded as extras which could and would be affected by other incomings and outgoings.

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As revealed by Goal in early June, Southampton's Van Dijk had been identified as the top target for centre-back, though the pursuit of Mbappe was one of the factors which would have a bearing on the money City could spend.

Guardiola GFX

In an early setback to the Blues' plans, however, the Dutchman elected to join Liverpool. Though that move remains on ice, City sources have long stressed they will not go back in for the former Celtic man.

Then, having initially not expected to be able to prise Leonardo Bonucci from Juventus, City sprang into action once it became known that the Italy international was keen to move on.

Talks were initiated with Bonucci's representatives in July, though it was made clear that he prioritised a move to AC Milan so he could be close to Turin and therefore be better able to take care of his son, who fell ill last year. 

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Bonucci remained in talks with City but was asking for around £180,000 per week, much more than he eventually accepted at San Siro. City believed that to be an attempt to best care for his son in the event he decided to relocate to England.

City were planning for the arrival of Dani Alves in Manchester as they learned Bonucci would, indeed, join Milan. The Brazil right-back emerged as an option for City in April and agreed a two-year contract in June, before he negotiated his exit from Juventus on the premise that he wanted to work with Guardiola and play in the Premier League.

Alves met with Guardiola in Barcelona, where they discussed City's transfer plans, one day before he initiated talks with PSG. City officials in Manchester were unmoved by the reports, insisting that Alves would be joining them on their flight to the United States a week down the line.

Indeed, City had already promised journalists a sit-down interview with Alves in Los Angeles, such was their confidence that he would honour his verbal agreement. The official City website had also prepared an array of content, in preparation for his announcement.

Those same City officials only discovered Alves' change of heart on the day his wife posted Instagram pictures of the two arriving in Paris.

Daniel Alves PSG Paris Saint Germain Ligue 1

Nasser Al Khelaii Dani Alves PSG presentation 12072017

The Brazilian's decision has had a big knock-on effect on City's transfer business this summer; it cost the club at least £15m extra in transfer fees, forced them into signing just three full-backs instead of four, and has led to interest in West Brom defender Evans.

Tottenham, under the impression that Alves would be City's first-choice right-back, sensed City's desperation at missing out on the Brazilian and put up their asking price for Kyle Walker, one of the Blues' absolute priority targets.

The two clubs had been negotiating for weeks but a deal was rushed through 48 hours after Alves' PSG moved was made official, with City caving in and agreeing to pay £50m, plus £4m in add-ons, for a player who they had hoped to sign for £45m at most.

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Learning of the fee City paid for Walker, Monaco demanded the same for Benjamin Mendy, another fundamental target. City had hoped to sign the Frenchman for £40m at the end of last season, but in the end paid roughly £52m.

Mendy's signature was secured around a day after City signed Danilo from Real Madrid. As revealed by Goal, City had been one of several teams to enquire about the right-back earlier this year, only to be informed that the Brazilian wanted to stay at the Santiago Bernabeu.

However, Juventus persuaded Danilo to leave Madrid as they pursued a replacement for Alves, though having agreed personal terms with the 26-year-old, they eventually elected to sign Douglas Costa as their one remaining non-EU player instead, leaving Danilo keen for a new challenge but with nowhere to go.

City subsequently reignited their earlier interest and agreed a deal worth £26.9m with Madrid, seeing off a rival bid from Chelsea with the help of a phone call from Guardiola.

But it quickly emerged that the extra money spent on Walker, Mendy and Danilo - as a direct result of Alves' snub - had forced an end to City's interest in Ryan Bertrand, who would have been the Blues' fourth full-back, at a cost of at least £35m.

The failure to sign Bertrand also left City in need of a different homegrown player to boost their quota for UEFA competitions.

Guardiola GFX

Meanwhile, Guardiola had confirmed during City's time in the US that Aleksandar Kolarov had asked to leave the club and join Roma. That was another spanner in the works for Guardiola, who had been counting on Kolarov for the new season and had in fact planned to sell Nicolas Otamendi for at least £20m to help fund a move for a big-money centre-back.

In City's original plans, Kolarov would have remained as fourth-choice centre-back, with the new recruit, the Van Dijk or Bonucci-type figure, competing with Kompany and Stones and helping to strengthen the backline.

Guardiola's annoyance at Kolarov's decision was made clear when he told the press he does not want to work with players who wanted to leave. 

That decision also helped force City to look for a cheaper option at centre-back, and moves for Real Sociedad's Inigo Martinez and Middlesbrough's Ben Gibson had been explored. Though both are regarded as viable options, and could be targeted in future, Guardiola is desperate for a more senior option, in part to help Stones' development.

That helps to explain why 19-year-old Tosin Adarabioyo, who signed a new deal earlier this summer, has never been considered as an option for the current season. Meanwhile, Eliaquim Mangala, who has been training with the first-team recently, will be allowed to leave once a new defender, potentially Evans, is signed.

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Everything that transpired in July - the extra money spent on full-backs, the inability to sign Bertrand or Bonucci, and Kolarov's shock decision to leave - has led to City moving for Evans.

The profile for a new centre-back at the start of the summer was a strong leader, with top-level experience, capable of playing the ball out from the back. Once it became clear that Bertrand was no longer obtainable, City also had to add 'homegrown' to their list of boxes to be ticked.

Guardiola, during his time as Barcelona boss, admired Evans as he was breaking into the Manchester United team in his early 20s. 

The Northern Ireland international is far from City's first-choice target for the position, and is not expected to make as big an impact on the team as the club's original targets. Indeed, he has been lined up as Kolarov's replacement, and therefore would be fourth choice in the pecking order.

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But for around £20m, Evans' arrival will allow City to continue their pursuit of Alexis and Mbappe. 

City decided not to sign a central midfielder this summer and will instead dedicate plenty of next summer's budget to finding replacements for Yaya Toure and Fernandinho, who could both leave on free transfers.

And following their travails in the search for a new centre-back, they will spend the end of 2017 and start of 2018 identifying and pursuing a top-class defender. For now, Jonny Evans fits the bill.