Admitting that Saul Niguez is one hell of a player, but in the same breath suggesting that Manchester City aren’t interested is just a smokescreen from Pep Guardiola.
If there’s a genuine opportunity for any club to bag a player of his quality, then you simply don’t pass that up.
Atletico Madrid will fight tooth and nail to keep hold of one of their best and most versatile players, but if his release clause is met, there’s little that the Rojiblancos can do.
At €150 million euros, the man from Elche certainly doesn’t come cheap, and there are probably only a handful of teams in Europe that could afford his services.
City are certainly in that bracket and with David Silva getting no younger, a sojourn to the blue half of Manchester for Niguez can’t be ruled out.
At just 24 years of age, Saul is a fixture in both the Atleti and Spain midfields, and far from his versatility being a weakness, it’s absolutely a strength in his case.
Because there’s no discernible drop off in his level of performance, no matter if he’s being asked to play a creative midfield role or a more destructive one.
Tactically astute, he’s a godsend for both Diego Simeone and Luis Enrique, who know that with Saul in situ, he will always find space for himself and his colleagues, provide quality ball when needed, and come up with the odd goal or two.
At present, because of an unprecedented injury list, Cholo has even got him filling in at left-back!
For a Manchester City side that pride themselves on invention and creativity within a flexible framework, Saul is manna from heaven for Guardiola.
If there’s one word that sums up the former Barcelona coach’s way of working, it’s ‘discipline.’ It can be too much for some, but for a player that’s used to working in the same way under Simeone, Saul will have no issues in terms of adaptation.
As might be expected for an Atleti player, he isn’t frightened to put his foot in either, and that will be crucial if he were to survive in a physical Premier League.
At just over six foot he isn’t often outmuscled, but that comes as a surprise to his opponents thanks to a more athletic physique.
When scouring the market, it’s rare to find a player with such an array of attributes, and though he’s technically not on the market as such, his buyout has been set low when one considers how much things are changing in terms of an upward trajectory economically.
There have been no moves from Atletico to add a few more noughts on the end of his clause, and though they’ll not happily entertain new suitors sniffing around one of their prized assets either, by not renegotiating with the player they’re fully aware of just how at risk they are of losing him.
What City would gain is that rarest breed of player – one who could improve what they already have. Gold dust for any team.
It seems odd to be talking about a bargain too when the cost is so high, but Saul, perhaps more than any other player from Europe’s upper footballing echelons, does represent good value.
If City really do aspire to go to the next level and finally become European Champions, then they require the best players in each and every position.
He’s the right player, at the right age, with the right set of skills, joining at just the right time and very much at the right price.
Better call Saul.