Manchester City’s want-away stars and where they could go

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Five leagues titles in ten years is quite the feat from Manchester City, but it’s beginning to seem as if they might have a fight on their hands when they go to defend their crown next season.

Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea have shown themselves capable of going toe-to-toe with the champions, Manchester United will be out for their first title since 2013, and Liverpool – a resurgent force in the final ten games – will be boosted by the returns of Virgil van Dijk and Jordan Henderson.

As if that’s not enough for Pep Guardiola to worry about, he also has a number of stars knocking on the exit door. Sunday’s Champions League final defeat seems to have been the final straw for four members of the squad, with The Athletic naming Raheem Sterling, Aymeric Laporte, Gabriel Jesus and Riyad Mahrez as wanting a summer move away thanks to their limited game-time this season.

But how likely are each of them to leave, and where could they go if they get their reported wishes? Let’s take a look.

Raheem Sterling, Jacob MurphyRaheem Sterling, Jacob Murphy
Sterling may have played his final game for City | Stu Forster/Getty Images

Potential destinations: Arsenal, Real Madrid, PSG

When The Mail first claimed that Arsenal held an interest in luring Sterling away, most of us scoffed. But now it’s starting to seem like there could be a modicum or two of truth to it.

You would still think he falls outside of the Gunners’ narrow price range, but a move back to London, and a fresh start under a coach he knows well in Mikel Arteta, may well appeal as he looks to rediscover his best form.

He’s been linked with Real Madrid in the past, though, and if Los Blancos are unable to land Kylian Mbappe, then they may look to test City’s resolve over their former talisman. PSG are also a possibility, particularly if Mauricio Pochettino – a known admirer of Sterling’s – remains in the hotseat.

Sterling’s deal runs until 2023 so City do seem likely to listen to reasonable offers should one arrive. But his £300,000 per week salary could prove to be a problem for one or two of the clubs in the running.

Potential destinations: Barcelona, Bayern Munich, PSG

On the face of it this one seems like a surprise, but Laporte has hinted recently that he is less than pleased at losing his regular spot to John Stones and Ruben Dias.

He said after their win over Everton: “Personally, I’m happy with what I’ve done this season. When I’ve played, I’ve played really good. Of course you can always improve but I am happy with all that, and I hope I can do a very good Euro, then we’ll see what can happen.

“When you asked me before the Burnley game in this period I was playing more I think or maybe less but I don’t know, the situation is very different now. I will not say nothing here, it’s something personal.”

It wasn’t so long ago that Laporte was being talked about as one of the best defenders on the planet, and Bayern Munich have a vacancy for one of those with the exit of David Alaba. Now he’s declared for Spain, a return to La Liga with Barcelona may also appeal.

Gabriel JesusGabriel Jesus
Jesus could be on his way | Chloe Knott – Danehouse/Getty Images

Potential destinations: Tottenham, Atletico Madrid, Borussia Dortmund

Of the four players listed here, Jesus seems by far and away the most likely to leave.

Guardiola has often preferred to field Kevin De Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan at centre-forward than his actual second-choice striker, and even though Sergio Aguero’s departure has thrown him a lifeline, it seems he will have to walk away in order to realise his potential.

He has stagnated in recent seasons but there is still likely to be plenty of interest in a player whose strike rate has been exceptional in the Premier League. A deal with Tottenham could be struck if City decide to pursue a deal for Harry Kane, while a similar agreement could be reached with Borussia Dortmund over Erling Haaland.

Elsewhere, Atletico Madrid are in need of an understudy to Luis Suarez – though Jesus may not be keen to play second fiddle yet again.

Mahrez, ChilwellMahrez, Chilwell
Mahrez comes up short against former Leicester teammate Ben Chilwell | Kaz Photography/Getty Images

Potential destinations: Arsenal, Real Madrid, Leicester..?

Now 30 with two years left on his deal, it may make sense for City to cash in on Mahrez while they can. He’s been a big part of their success this season, but only started 23 of their league games, and looks like one of their more replaceable stars.

Arsenal have long been linked with a move for him, and he may be a more affordable option than Sterling, while still offering a significant step up on the Gunners’ current wide options. Real Madrid have also been linked with a move in the past, but he may not be the best fit – especially after the resounding expensive failure that was Eden Hazard’s move from Chelsea.

A return to Leicester could also be on the cards for the Algerian as he approaches the twilight of his career, but whether they could justify the significant outlay is another matter.

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