Key Man City strategy set to leave Liverpool FC and Chelsea standing in next five years – Stuart Brennan

Ederson, Stones, Dias, Laporte, Cancelo, De Bruyne, Bernardo, Palmer, Kayky, Grealish.

Those ten names could form the basis of the Manchester City squad three years from now, when most of them will be at their peak.

That is a sobering thought for the rest of the Premier League, especially rivals Liverpool, who appear to be staring at a triple-barrelled shotgun as star forward trio Sadio Mane, Mo Salah and Roberto Firmino approach the final year of their current deals.

Chelsea also have serious work to do, with Toni Rudiger, N’Golo Kante, Jorginho, Mason Mount, Christian Pulisic and Callum Hudson-Odoi all approaching the final two years of their contracts.

People talk a lot about City’s spending in the transfer market, a lot of it nonsense that fails to recognise that their investments in quality players pay off in terms of improving the value of those human assets as well as winning trophies.

Not such a popular topic is the way City have kept hold of those players, by cultivating a family atmosphere around the playing squad, a bond that carries them through difficult moments in matches, and tough times in seasons.

One recent criticism of City suggested City’s squad seems restless and unfulfilled despite all their success – the comment of someone who does not see those players close up.

Like any other squad, players who are not playing get fractious – as Raheem Sterling and Aymeric Laporte did last season, and occasionally a player gets homesick for personal, non-football related reasons, as Bernardo Silva has in the last two summers.

But the fact that all three of those players stayed, and have thrived this season, speaks of the real spirit and togetherness in this exceptional squad of players.

It did not need to be underlined – few clubs can boast the longevity of service of major stars like Sergio Aguero, David Silva, Vincent Kompany, Pablo Zabaleta, and now Fernandinho and Kevin De Bruyne.

That does not smack of a club where the stars are unfulfilled and casting envious eyes elsewhere.

Joao Cancelo signs his new contract at Man City
Joao Cancelo signs his new contract at Man City

Joao Cancelo has become the latest City star to sign up for the long term, signing a contract extension until 2027, to join the same bracket as Ruben Dias and Jack Grealish.

Just behind them are Ederson, John Stones, Cole Palmer and exciting Brazilian youngster Kayky, all tied down until 2026.

Then there are Zack Steffen, Laporte, Nathan Ake, Kevin De Bruyne and Bernardo, with deals due to expire in 2025.

City are expected to sort deals for Phil Foden, Rodri and Aleks Zinchenko, all due in 2024, while the futures of Raheem Sterling, Ilkay Gundogan, Riyad Mahrez and Gabriel Jesus need the most attention, with just 18 months left on their current deals.

The Blues have a strategic plan for their squad that looks as far ahead as four to five years, although that cannot take into account the unpredictability of player form, whims and injuries.

But as an outline, they already have a vision of how the nub of the City squad might look in 2025, with Palmer, and possibly Kayky and James McAtee, coming into the equation.

Tying players down on long contracts not only allows stability and strategic planning for the squad, it also protects your most valuable assets – as Liverpool are currently discovering, with Salah asking for a wage commensurate with his status as a Ballon D’Or candidate.

No doubt the Merseyside club will do all in their power to keep Salah and Mane, and probably Firmino, while Naby Keita also has just over a year left.

But the uncertainty is not good.

City have been excellent at forward planning, both in terms of commercial revenue and their playing squad, and they are set up nicely to continue their current position as the dominant force in English football.

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