The close season has barely begun and already we are being bombarded with stories about the future of Emi Buendia, some clearly clickbait nonsense but some from sources that are generally fairly reliable.
It is hardly a surprise that a player who bestrode the Championship like a colossus this season and has just been picked by Argentina for the first time, should be in demand (in fact, I’d be more surprised if he wasn’t.)
I have no idea whether he will still be at Norwich come August and have no inside information and, while I fervently hope that he will, I’m fully accepting of the fact that he may not, and with that in mind I would like to pose three questions:
- What is likely to tempt him away?
2. Why would City not just put a ridiculous price tag on him to deter suitors in the same way Villa did with Jack Grealish last summer?
3. How could City cope without him?
Let’s start at the top. Despite the usual arrogance from Arsenal fans, the fact that the Gunners have failed to qualify for even the most Mickey Mouse of European competitions would seem to rule them out.
Playing in Europe would obviously appeal to Emi, but that may be problematic in that it is hard to see where he would fit into any of the top four’s midfields as a guaranteed starter, and it’s significant that none of them have been linked with him so far.
A Europa League qualifier might be the best he could hope for currently as a player who has yet to prove himself at Premier League level, but so far Leicester, Spurs or West Ham have yet to be linked to him.
Would a move to a mid-table Premier League team really appeal that much? There has been talk of Aston Villa, but would a side that has been totally built around Grealish work for Emi?
Of course, there is also the possibility of a return to Spain and that would obviously have the advantages of climate and language and shouldn’t be ruled out, but I think the key will be how Emi sees City’s ambitions for the coming season, as another relegation battle, particularly an unsuccessful one, won’t do much to raise his profile.
However, a stellar season from him for City in the Premier League might be a stepping stone to one of the biggest clubs.
Moving to the second question of simply pricing him out of a move, there are two very simple reasons why it won’t happen. The first is that there is no benefit in keeping a player who wants out (the example of Grealish was chosen deliberately because he has spent his career at Villa and has a huge emotional attachment to the club), but the more important second in Emi’s case is that the self-funding model dictates that selling to buy will always be central to how the City system works, and hence every player will have their price.
While that will remain an unpalatable fact for some, the fact is that it has worked pretty well so far. Whilst James Maddison had to be sold to clear the debts accumulated when City did spend big to try for success, the sales of Ben Godfrey and Jamal Lewis brought in funds which allowed Stuart Webber and Daniel Farke to develop a squad that has dominated the Championship.
While not every newcomer has established themselves, the purchases of Ben Gibson, Dimitris Giannoulis, Jacob Sorensen and Kieran Dowell have ensured that City return to the Premier League as a much stronger proposition than last time, which leads us nicely on to the final question.
When City last went up there was huge pressure on Emi to make the side tick. Todd Cantwell was still establishing himself and Marco Stiepermann and Onel Hernandez were finding the Premier League a big step up from the Championship and struggled to impress. Basically, if Emi and Teemu Pukki weren’t on top form City had little cutting edge.
This time Cantwell is much closer to the finished product and Dowell has already shown both his goalscoring ability and his ability to create chances for others. Kenny McLean has also taken his game to another level this season and while neither of the current wing options have torn up any trees it seems likely that the Club will be looking to upgrade that position in the summer.
If Emi were to leave it would mean that City’s style would need to change but that could actually be an advantage, as in their last Premier League season neutralizing Emi largely neutralized City and that, along with the crippling effect of injuries on squad lacking real depth at that level, pretty much sealed the Club’s fate.
Clearly there is much greater strength in depth this time around, but more importantly the Club is in a much better financial position than last time and any sale proceeds will largely be invested in squad development.
Before the 2019/20 season most of the available resources went into improved contracts for the players who had won promotion but that won’t be repeated, although it is hard to call it a mistake as it meant that the younger players were tied to the Club for longer periods so increasing their transfer values. It did also, however, mean that the likes of Moritz Leitner and Tom Trybull became harder to shift.
Webber has already made it clear that City will be active in the transfer market and that the emphasis will be on increasing City’s physical presence, but how much extra quality can be brought in will be dictated by whether or not any of the “crown jewels” are sold.
If the sale of Emi funded two or three Premier League quality players would that strengthen or weaken the team? Of course, the answer is that it depends on the players, but in simple terms that is what the self-funding model is all about.
There will, of course, be those City fans who believe that Emi is simply irreplaceable, just as there were when Kevin Reeves, Chris Sutton and Maddison, amongst others, were sold and, just as in those cases. it’s not true.
Webber and Farke know that this time City need to stay up and are not going to weaken their chances of doing so simply to cash in on a star player when money isn’t a primary concern for the Club.
You can be sure that there are contingency plans in place should any of the big players leave both in terms of replacements and how it would impact City’s style of play.
Of course, we all hope it won’t come to that, but if it does, I trust the people at the top of the playing side of the Club to make the best possible decisions.
Jim Davies says
If Emi does leave, I hope it will be to Athletico, or other La Liga team. I really don’t want to be facing him in another Premier League side, least of all Villa. He has said that he wants to help City establish themselves in the Premier League, so hopefully he can resist his agent’s attempts to move him on, and give us one more season, after which he could go with my blessing. I wish him the best whatever he does (but not Villa, please Emi)!!
Paul Allen says
A balanced and realistic view of where City are at. I’ve no doubt Emi will leave within the next 12 months but, and I agree with Jim Davies, we’d all like to see him go to one of the best in Europe. Average Prem teams are not where he needs to be. I have complete trust in SW to manage the whole thing. As he says “ignore the noise”.
Alex B says
An enjoyable read
As with the others that have commented I full agree it would be great not only to keep Emi but Todd and Aaron’s as well.
Silly season is starting in full swing and the papers are already listing players we are interested in but most are playing overseas and wouldn’t earn the points for a work permit.
A Fulham CB who will be on more money that most if not all city players is the latest with the daily rags saying he wants to stay in the premiership so we will see
I think it’s fair to assume there will be offers for Emi. Obviously if someone comes in with silly money a la Blackburn and Sutton we’ll sell. If that doesn’t happen I imagine Buendia will make a decision based on how good he thinks we’ll be next season. If he believes we can genuinely be knocking at the door of the top six then I expect him to say. After all, if he’s right, that will only increase his value. If he thinks we’ll be relegation fodder then I imagine he’ll leave. If he stays, without the aforementioned silly money offer, I will look forward to a very good season
By all means sell one player for a big transfer fee, if that money is really needed.
But I just hope that player will not be Emi! Without him our survival chances are much reduced. One more season, then go with all our blessing.
Fair assessment, to sell Max, Emi and Todd would be ludicrous, especially if the Board want to make a statement. As pointed-out, to better himself I cannot see Emi moving to Villains, however, a guaranteed start (playing time), he would get in abundance. Arsenal and Spurs, the latter always do business on the quiet, have the pulling power and Kudos that Villa haven’t. Yet, Arsenal irrespective of big name signings (Pepe), have failed throughout to be nothing other than a mid table team. Like many, I would love to see Emi stay for one more season (and if money as flouted is an object under the current climate – I don’t see Arsenal coming in for him, that leaves Villa, and to be frank, they have the funds, that’s where I suspect he will go with Grealish going to Man City, to provide such funds. The only desirable replacement (Danjuma), who ran circles around us, but the pull of PL playing time, could be enough to lure him.