Manchester City prepared to break transfer record for Atletico Madrid midfielder Rodri

James Ducker
The Telegraph

Manchester City are ready to break their transfer record to sign Rodri, the highly-rated young Spain midfielder, from Atletico Madrid as Fernandinho’s long-term replacement.

Atletico are unwilling to allow Rodri to leave for less than his 70 million euros (£60.6 million) release clause, which means City will have to narrowly eclipse their current record £60 million outlay on Riyad Mahrez to land the 22-year-old.

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City’s scouts and director of football, Txiki Begiristain, have watched Rodri extensively and have been busy laying the groundwork for a move in the hope of securing a deal before pre-season starts in early July. City have also closely followed the progress of Lyon’s France midfielder, Tanguy Ndombele, but Rodri - regarded as very intelligent on and off the field - remains the priority.

Pep Guardiola, the City manager, was left deeply frustrated at missing out to Barcelona for Ajax midfielder, Frenkie de Jong, whom it was announced in January will leave the Dutch club for the Spanish champions for £65 million this summer.

Yet one upside of De Jong’s impending move to the Nou Camp is it has negated the threat of a challenge from Barcelona for Rodri, who has drawn comparisons with Sergio Busquets, the Catalan club’s long-standing “pivot”.

Fernandinho is 34 next month and, although he remains integral to Guardiola’s team, the manager has been eyeing a quality long-term replacement for approaching two years.

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The situation is more pressing than ever with Ilkay Gundogan, who has stood in for Fernandinho in defensive midfield on numerous occasions, still to sign a new contract. The Germany midfielder is out of contract at the end of next season and, should City fail to persuade him to sign a new deal, they could be forced to sell this summer rather than risk losing him for nothing next year.

City’s search for a defensive midfielder briefly led them to Fred, who ended up joining Manchester United, and later Jorginho, who ended up signing instead for Chelsea last summer, before the move for De Jong.

Rodri was on Atletico’s books for six years before being sold to Villarreal in 2013, since when he has blossomed and overcome concerns about his physicality. Now 6ft 3in tall, Atletico re-signed Rodri - whose full name is Rodrigo Hernandez Cascante - for 25 million euros only last summer. Luis Enrique, the Spain and former Barcelona coach, is among his admirers. “Rodri comes across as very professional and prepared mentally,” Enrique said. “He can reach Busquets’ level and maybe surpass it. Who knows what his limits are?”

City have the threat of a two-window transfer ban hanging over them as Fifa investigate allegations that the club breached rules over the signing of players under the age of 18 and Guardiola could be busy bolstering his squad this summer.

As well as a defensive midfielder, left back is a priority given the concerns over Benjamin Mendy’s troubled fitness, with Ben Chilwell a target, but Leicester City do not want to sell and he would be very expensive to sign.

Guardiola is also in the market for a striker and Frankfurt’s Luka Jovic has been watched but a host of clubs are chasing the Serbian forward. City have also been interested in signing Ajax centre-half, Matthijs de Ligt, but he seems set to follow De Jong to Barcelona.

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