Manchester City have backed themselves into a rather expensive corner this summer.
To secure the signature of England's best under-21 attacking midfielder in Raheem Sterling - spending £49 million in the process - the Citizens have effectively made all young talents deemed better by public consensus to be priced at no less than £49 million.
VfL Wolfsburg have one such footballer in Kevin De Bruyne and, according to the Daily Mail, are requesting £50 million from Manchester City to commence negotiations.
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For a club willing to give their Premier League rivals Liverpool £49 million, paying a Bundesliga side just £1 million more for a better and more established player seems the easiest decision of this summer transfer window - but in football, things rarely follow the common sense path.
Manuel Pellegrini has two quality, central-midfield options in Yaya Toure and David Silva. The Ivory Coast and Spain internationals have combined for 49 goals and 33 assists in the Premier League since 2013/14, but at 32 and 29-years-old respectively, City could be looking for long-term security in central attacking midfield.
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De Bruyne would seem an ideal candidate for the Sky Blues' next no. 10, especially given the 24-year-old midfielder's excellent 2014/15 campaign. Given a central, creative role with little responsibility in terms of defending, the Belgian international took Germany by storm. Ten goals and 20 assists in the Bundesliga have no doubt inflated Wolfsburg's original investment into the tens of millions.
Bought from Chelsea for £18 million in the 2014 January transfer window, De Bruyne's stock has reached astronomical levels, and the evidence to justify such an increase is clear to anyone who watches him play. Vision, pace, awareness, technical ability and an all-important footballing brain are his foremost traits - traits that City need in their aging squad.
There are two hiccups to this rumoured transfer, though.
The first is UEFA financial fair play regulations. Not since the 2009/10 season have Manchester United's "noisy neighbours" spent over £100 million in one term, and yet they were still given harsh punishments by UEFA's regulators, meaning last season they were handcuffed.
This season, however, City should have the financial freedom to spend copious amounts on select footballers, but they might regret not disbursing their funds in a more calculated fashion - specifically on world-class defenders.
Manchester City's second hiccup is De Bruyne's personal ambitions.
A conceivable scenario is the Citizens offering £60 million for the midfielder, Wolfsburg accepting - how could they not - but De Bruyne electing to stay in Germany. The young midfielder endured a torrid time in west London under Jose Mourinho and, given his success in Germany, might remain perfectly content with staying under manager Dieter Hecking's wing.
Paying £50 million for a young 20-something is a roll of football's dubious dice, but it is a gamble the Citizens have already made once this summer, though it remains to be seen whether the Belgian will be tempted by a move to Manchester rather than whether City will be prepared to meet Wolfsburg's asking price.
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