Manchester City could release three first-team stars next summer who are all in the final year of their current deals at the club.
Pablo Zabaleta, Bacary Sagna and Gael Clichy could leave the Etihad Stadium at the end of the season after contract talks were shelved with all three of the defenders.
It is believed that, in order to secure themselves a new deal at City, the full-backs must prove that they can successfully adapt to Pep Guardiola's philosophy and the style of football he wants to play.
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Zabaleta, who is a huge fans favourite, is (one of) the team's longest-serving players having been there since 2008. Meanwhile, Frenchmen Clichy and Sagna both joined from Arsenal in 2011 and 2014 respectively.
All three players are now over the age of 30 and, as a result of the large investments the club has made in its youth team facilities and academy system in recent years, City feel that they have the youngsters to replace them next season.
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"There are no talks in (the) pipeline to discuss possible contract extensions for Pablo Zabaleta, Bacary Sagna and Gael Clichy," an Etihad source said, per The Sun.
"All three are out of contract next summer but all (have been) given a reprieve by Pep Guardiola to prove themselves this season.
"They are all over the age of 30 and with youngsters Pablo Maffeo and Angelino also knocking on the first-team door, City are biding their time."
Guardiola has only been Man City boss for a few months, but the 45-year-old has already shown that he has no problems getting rid of established, top-class talent if they don't fit into his plans.
Yaya Toure was left out of the Spanish manager's Champions League squad and the 33-year-old midfield veteran is yet to even make the bench in the Premier League this season.
Additionally, transfer deadline day saw the loaning out of players to sides all over Europe, most notably Joe Hart, but also Jason Denayer, Eliaquim Mangala, Samir Nasri and Wilfried Bony.
What does Pep want from his full-backs?
Under Guardiola, Zabaleta, Sagna and Clichy have been forced to play in a system where they almost act as holding midfielders, moving into central positions to help create overloads in the middle of the park and space out wide.
This method worked extremely well at Bayern Munich, since both Philipp Lahm and David Alaba had the intelligence and the technical ability to excel in those roles.
However, it's clear that City's current full-back trio aren't as comfortable or as gifted on the ball as Pep would like and it may ultimately result in the end of their careers at the club.
What do YOU make of Pep's ruthless approach so far at Man City? Have YOUR say in the comments box below!
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