Manchester City stormed to the Premier League title in 2017/18 and ended up winning with a 19 point cushion, suggesting on the face of it that there isn’t even any need to sign new players this summer.
Realistically that is a naïve way to assess the situation, because rival teams will be clamouring to strengthen in a bid to close the gap at the top.
The season has only just ended and so far the Citizens have been linked with moves for a number of players – with Jorginho and Riyad Mahrez expected to be the first names through the door.
Jorginho is a player said to be nearing a move to the Etihad, especially following his agent’s recent comments, but Internazionale defender Milan Škriniar is definitely another Serie A star Pep Guardiola should be keeping his eye on.
Hailing from Žiar nad Hronom, Slovakia, Škriniar joined the youth setup of MŠK Žilina at the age of 12, and made his senior debut for the club shortly after turning 17.
Inter Milan have rejected €50m bids from Manchester City and Barcelona for star defender Milan Škriniar (23). [Gazzetta dello Sport] pic.twitter.com/yBNQ876Q8l
— City Watch (@City_Watch) 18 May 2018
In 2016 he managed to impress enough in his homeland for the scouts of Sampdoria to come knocking with an offer. He signed, and completed one full season at Stadio Luigi Ferraris before getting his big break with Italian giants Inter, where he seriously caught the eye in 2017/18.
So much so, that Manchester City have seemingly now earmarked the youngster as a potential summer signing, even while other clubs – such as Barcelona – are the ones being linked of late.
Škriniar would, in theory, represent a good long-term investment given his young age of 23. He’s physically ideal, too – at 6ft 2in. He isn’t so small that centre forwards can out-leap him, but not too tall in that his manoeuvrability is badly affected. He isn’t fast per se, but he isn’t clumsy like a lot of lanky defenders you see today. Also, his passing success was an impressive 91%.
He was one of Inter’s most consistent performers in 2017/18. The Nerazzurri finished the season with the joint-second best defensive record in Serie A and only lost six times in the division, with two of those defeats coming in the final three games as the concentration slipped.
Škriniar’s ever-present influence at the back and his partnership with Miranda turned Inter into a very tricky side to beat, and helped to successfully aid their bid to be in next season’s Champions League.
He seems to have developed at a rapid rate which is always going to alert the big clubs. With Vincent Kompany ageing, City can be forgiven for being excited about this player, but they also need to be wary.
Despite a promising start to his career, Škriniar only has ten months’ worth of experience in a top five league and may find the Premier League much tougher going that the notoriously slower-paced Italian league.
Then there’s also John Stones and Aymeric Laporte to consider, and how their playing time and development specifically could be affected. Having three young centre-backs at the club could mean at least one slows down and/or ends up becoming frustrated. That said, Pep Guardiola always has the option of playing three at the back, but that means taking out a midfielder or a forward.
In fairness though Guardiola did an excellent job of sharing the workload last season, ensuring he rotated his side when he needed to, and all of the younger players got decent game time.
Ultimately though, Škriniar is a Guardiola player. He’s a ball-player and has a good footballing brain, capable of being moulded into a great one. There’s a reason he’s also being linked with Barcelona. A reason why he was named in the U21s Euro 2017 Team of the Tournament. A reason why he is already a regular for the Slovakian national team.