Pep Guardiola wants to sign Alexis Sanchez and two more players to complete his Manchester City revolution — but is happy to play a waiting game.
The Etihad boss’ transfer blueprint for the next 18 months involves bringing in one forward, one defensive midfielder and one centre-half.
But Fabian Delph’s outstanding form for the runaway Premier League leaders has persuaded Pep to ditch plans to sign another left-back.
Sanchez is the attacking player City want, although Pep’s preference is to wait until the summer to land the Arsenal superstar.
As well as being available on a free in June, Guardiola fears what effect the former Barcelona ace arrival would have on the balance of his squad.
City had a £60million deadline-day bid for Sanchez accepted by the Gunners last summer — but were shocked when Emirates chiefs pulled the plug just hours later.
Now they hope to make Arsenal see the error of their ways by taking him for nothing when his contract expires at the end of the season.
Plans could change if other clubs move for Sanchez next month — but City remain confident the Chilean, 29, only wants to join them.
That would leave a huge question mark over Sergio Aguero’s future at City, although the club will want him to stay.
City’s hierarchy believe competition is the ideal way to bring the best out of Aguero — and Sanchez certainly adds that.
It would also be a huge call for Guardiola to sanction the sale of the striker who is a huge favourite among City fans — and his son Marius’ favourite player.
Meanwhile, Guardiola’s move for a new centre-half could still happen in January — although Vincent Kompany and John Stones are making progress as they recover from injuries.
City have had some contact with Southampton about Virgil van Dijk, who was a target for them last summer.
However they backed off when Saints quoted them £70m for the Dutch international, 26.
Real Sociedad’s Inigo Martinez is now believed to be ahead of West Brom centre-back Jonny Evans on the list of likely alternatives.
City’s search for a new defensive midfielder is also under way before Yaya Toure finally ends his Etihad career in the summer.
City have been linked with the likes of Fabinho, William Carvalho and Steven Nzonzi in the past but are happy to bide their time.
Delph’s performances during the club’s 27-game unbeaten domestic run has forced City’s hierarchy into a re-think over plans to recruit a left-back — and seems certain to save them a fortune.
Guardiola was convinced right from the start he could convert the England midfielder into a full-back — and got the chance when £49.3m summer signing Benjamin Mendy ruptured a cruciate in September.
City plan to keep Delph, 28, and use him as back-up when the French ace is fit again.
The fact Delph — an £8m signing from Aston Villa in summer 2015 — is now seen as a left-back will no doubt interest England boss Gareth Southgate going into World Cup year.