Man City’s Blue Moon has been knocked out of orbit and is hurtling uncontrollably into space.
Two years without European football courtesy of a Uefa ban and the threat of other sanctions, not least a possible points deduction from the Premier League and even talk of banishment down to League Two, has put their lofty, oil-money fuelled ambitions on hold.
Naturally, there will be very little sympathy from City’s rivals following their plight, especially as their Champions League ban offers a route into the competition for the side that finishes in 5th-place in the Premier League this season.
The likes of Spurs, Everton and Wolves, as well as their cross-city rivals Man United and, most brilliantly of all, Sheffield United – who were of course plying their trade in the Championship just last year – will be rubbing their hands together in glee.
And further afield, the mighty pulling power of Real Madrid and Juventus could come calling for some of City’s best players and their manager in the summer.
Here’s the players that have suddenly popped up in the shop window.
It’s been nearly 10 years since Pep last lifted Old Big Ears, and we doubt he’d wait a further two more before he could attempt to challenge for his long-awaited third title.
The follically challenged Spaniard is widely regarded as the best in the business; a serial winner, famed for his Champions League expertise – despite his recent failings.
His former club Barcelona would certainly like to have him back considering their own recent short-comings, but many can see him moving onto Juventus in the summer instead.
Juve have looked far from their best under Maurizio Sarri this season, especially as their stranglehold on the Serie A is under significant threat from Inter and Lazio, while European glory has alluded the Italian giants since 1996 – with the Old Lady reaching the final five times since then without prevail.
What’s more, Guardiola’s determination to prove his managerial worth in a number of different countries – he’s already ticked off Spain, Germany and England, after all – also makes a move to Turin seem plausible.
While Sterling’s current form remains unquestionably poor, there’s no denying that the England forward is one of the genuine stars of the Premier League and is close to the kind of talent that attracts the very top European sides.
Sterling has reportedly been on Real Madrid’s radar for some time and, with City’s upcoming Champions League ban looming, this summer looks like their best opportunity to pounce.
The 25-year-old has previously stated that he’d like to play abroad at some stage in his career and a move to the Bernabeu feels like the natural next destination for the former Liverpool star, who otherwise faces playing-out his peak years at a club not competing at all in Europe.
Kevin De Bruyne
KDB is undoubtedly the figurehead of City’s style of play; so much so, in fact, that it is difficult to imagine their current side without him pulling the strings in the middle of the park.
His pinpoint delivery, the chances he creates and his overall vision makes him one of the finest midfielders around, and unlike many of his City teammates, you rarely read any transfer gossip linking him with a move away.
But at the age of 28, the Belgian must be seriously considering his future at the Etihad after this season.
Having never won the Champions League and with the opportunity to do so for at least the next two years taken away, there’s a chance he’ll be looking to move.
Any club in the world would happily take him, including the usual suspects in Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich.
But what about Liverpool? They’re the club the Belgian supported as a boy, and if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em, yeah?
Much like De Bruyne, Aguero is at the age where he can’t just wait around for another two years for the possibility of Champions League glory.
The 31-year-old has been loyal to City since he joined in 2011 and is one of the genuine heroes of the club, not least for his famous title-winning goal in 2012.
Before their Champions League ban, he was earmarked to remain in blue until he inevitably seeks a move back to Argentina, but now that’s all changed.
If he really wants to have one last pop at lifting a major European trophy, he’ll have to seek one last move to a major powerhouse, with Real Madrid and Barcelona both said to be long-term admirers.
For many of us, Laporte’s absence through injury this season has been one of the reasons behind City’s dreadful title-defence.
The defender is considered the best in the Premier League after Virgil van Dijk, even making the PFA Team of the Year at the end of last season alongside the Dutchman.
Laporte’s appeal isn’t just in his defensive capabilities either, as his skill of playing out from the back is widely known.
Ball-playing defenders have become increasingly popular among clubs across Europe and will make Laporte a top target for those looking for an elite and stylish centre-back.
Considering his links to Spain and his high-regard in La Liga, Barcelona will certainly be snooping, especially with Gerard Pique reaching the twilight years of his career, although PSG could be another suitor, with the Parisians sharing City’s vision of dominating Europe with the world’s best players.
Riyad Mahrez, Bernardo Silva and Joao Cancelo could also be on the move in the summer, with all three players previously stating their preference to compete at the very highest level in the Champions League.
Mahrez, in particular, will feel hard done by, having previously left the now-high flying Leicester in 2018 to compete for club football’s ultimate honour .
Leroy Sane, who’s spent the majority of this season sidelined through injury, had already been earmarked for a move back to Germany with Bayern Munich and his desire to leave will have surely doubled now.
The one player who perhaps saves face here is David Silva, whose contract expires at the end of this season and he was always going to leave the club anyway.
And, of course, if multiple stars do leave City, then youngsters like Phil Foden and the exciting Taylor Harwood-Bellis might end up the ultimate winners.
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