After a busy couple of weeks when it was only ins and not a single out, the chatter has inevitably turned to those destined to depart the City walls.
Liverpool were first to show their hand, with a modest £10 million bid for Jamal Lewis, although it sounds like one of those emails that Stuart Webber replied to before he’d hardly opened it.
He’s too professional to say f**k off, you’re having a laugh, but hopefully, that would have been the gist.
Liverpool, the football club, likely knew it would be batted back – no problem with that. These deals have to have an opening gambit and that was it.
Of course, it all kicked off on social media when Liverpool fans started to question the sheer audacity of Norwich City in turning down an offer from the world champions that ‘all the websites’ said was a fair one. I wrote about it, so I’ll not harp on other than to say they’re still going.
How dare we.
I suspect the die is now cast and Jamal will go, especially if his head has been sufficiently turned, but it does have the makings of one that will soon be labelled protracted.
Let’s hope not, but at least it looks like an area of the squad that will benefit from Webber’s forward planning with Sam McCallum – all 19 years of him – clearly being brought in for this moment. And we’ve already seen that Sam Byram, when he’s fit, can provide cover on both sides.
Less easy to replace would be our ‘five-foot-seven of football heaven’. While Emi Buendia may not have quite set the Premier League alight in the way we had hoped – certainly not in terms of goals – his metrics deemed him to be one of the most productive midfielders in Europe in terms of assists.
Naturally enough he’s on lots of radars.
Leeds keep getting mentioned as possible suitors, and have apparently ‘enquired’, but it was in the Daily Mail and I’m never sure if this has genuine legs or is a result of the Bielsa link.
Either way, if the Real Madrid of the north are willing to meet City’s valuation there’s not too much we can do about it. Their money is as good as anyone else’s I guess, but I can’t pretend it’d feel great to see him in that ghastly white shirt.
A bigger problem however would be how to replace him. While he has his flaws, all wrapped up in flailing arms and a protruding bottom lip, he offers something that no-one else in the squad can get close to.
Call it what you like: devilment, a touch of maverick, a creative spark, touch of the unexpected.
When he’s on it, I’d have to say he’s up there with the best technicians I’ve ever watched in a City shirt. The aforementioned stats back that up. And while we have a McCallum ready to step into the boots of a Lewis, I don’t see a like-for-like Buendia replacement straining at the leash for a first-team start.
Why would there be? They don’t come along very often.
That’s not to say he’s irreplaceable. No-one is. But it would be a void that’d be tricky to fill.
Of course, Daniel Farke did fill a James Maddison-shaped gap rather successfully in the summer of 2018 but his was a presence that dominated the team and his absence allowed others to grow.
I’m not sure that’s the case with Emi.
But, as ever, I’m sure Webber has a plan, especially if he’s permitted to spend a decent sized chunk of the money that’s incoming.
What the club has been good at doing over the last few seasons is enhancing the squad with young players, who have either been brought through our academy – like Todd Cantwell and Adam Idah – or brought in as youngsters from other academies – like Ben Godfrey, Max Aarons and Lewis.
Buendia too was brought in as an unpolished diamond and then handed to Team Farke to refine.
What the club has been less successful at is bringing in experienced players. Or at least the right experienced players; Teemu Pukki, for 18 months at least, being the obvious exception.
The plan of bringing onboard players whose careers had stalled, plateaued or who had varying degrees of baggage initially looked a masterstroke, as Tom Trybull, Mo Leitner, and co all made their mark in the Championship-winning campaign. But one of the drivers for exploring that particular market is that those players are cheap. Worth a gamble.
And fair enough. The size of Webber’s war chest demanded that those markets were explored.
In there, we found some good technicians and good characters, capable of some considerable highs. Who’ll ever forget Mo’s strike against that lot or Trybull’s awesomeness at Elland Road.
But neither has been able to produce it often enough or consistently enough, and even in the Championship both fell foul of the niggly, sometimes prolonged, injuries that had blighted their careers; part of the very reason they had plateaued.
Josip Drmic is in a similar boat, albeit minus the credits that come with a Championship win; less so Lukas Rupp whose fitness (so far) hasn’t been an issue and who I happen to think may do a good job for us in the second tier.
I guess it ultimately comes down to the old adage of getting what you pay for, even if for a time you think you’ve landed a bargain.
But it is an area where the recruitment needs to improve and let’s hope that with some large sums likely to be heading into the pot in the next few weeks, Webber’s job, in that regard, will be made that little bit easier.
What we do know is the squad that gloriously won the Championship and which was then given a chance to take on the Premier League is about to be no more.
Sad maybe, but all part of the footballing circle of life.