Manchester City’s Fernandinho successor could be right under their noses

Read via the Manchester Evening News

If there is anything to be learned from Manchester City’s previous two transfer windows it is that neither the club nor manager Pep Guardiola will have their arms twisted in negotiations.

City dropped out of the bidding for both Alexis Sánchez and Riyad Mahrez when quoted figures that exceeded their valuations, and a similar scenario may occur this summer in their pursuit of Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder Fred.

The Blues showed a high level of interest in January for the 25-year-old and saw the Brazilian as ideal competition for Fernandinho at the base of City’s finely-tuned midfield system.

The deal never materialised, but Shakhtar’s chief executive, Sergei Palkin, has since sought to rekindle City’s interest and ignite a bidding war with cross-town rivals Manchester United, who will look to bolster their midfield in the wake of Michael Carrick’s retirement and Marouane Fellaini’s likely exit.

“Fred will leave this summer,” Palkin told Corriere dello Sport. “If not to Manchester City, then to Manchester United. He is ready for the best championships. In addition to being very good, Fred is very professional.

As the Sánchez scenario showed, United have the means to belie their currently inferior on-field standing by out-paying City in the transfer market, so Guardiola will doubtless have other targets in mind if Fred’s ultimate destination turns out to be Old Trafford.

One of particular interest will be the Argentina midfielder Leandro Paredes, who operates under Roberto Mancini’s tutelage at Zenit Saint Petersburg.

The 23-year-old – who is in contention to start for Argentina in Friday night’s friendly against Italy at the Etihad Stadium – is considered by sources in the Argentina camp to be one of the national side’s best deep-lying midfielders.

Such is the regard that he is held in, Paredes has been called up to the squad for all eight of manager Jorge Sampaoli’s games in charge of the national team, having never been selected prior to then. He repaid the manager’s faith with a goal on his debut against Singapore in June.

It is understood that the former Roma man possesses the qualities that would be necessary to provide high-level competition for Fernandinho at the heart of City’s midfield, with his ability on the ball and his reading of the game allowing him to act as a lynchpin in the transition from defence to attack.

Paredes cuts a powerful, athletic figure whose incisive, forward passing and ferocious efforts from distance have made him a focal point for Zenit this season. It follows on from an impressive campaign with Roma, who reluctantly sold him for a reported £20.7 million because, in Paredes’ words, they ‘needed the money’. Liverpool’s Mo Salah and Chelsea’s Antonio Rüdiger left the Italian capital in the same window.

The Boca Juniors academy graduate boasts a successful pass rate of 86.5% from 28 Zenit appearances this season, with four goals and five assists to his name and will be targeting a strong finish to the season to cement his place in Argentina’s World Cup squad.

With Zenit out of the Europa League following defeat to RB Leipzig in the round of 16, Paredes will also see Friday’s friendly at the Etihad as an opportunity to attract admiring glances, should Guardiola be forced to revert to a plan B in his midfield reinforcement project this summer.

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