Pep Guardiola believes it’s difficult for Manchester City to beat Real Madrid or Barcelona in the transfer market.
City are among a host of top European clubs interested in signing Ajax midfielder Frenkie De Jong but face competition from Barcelona as well as Paris Saint-Germain.
Guardiola refused to be drawn on the chances of signing the 21-year-old Netherlands international, who could cost around £70 million, but admitted it’s difficult to take on the La Liga giants.
“If you are the only one who want players it’s easy. But if you want one and many, many clubs want him it’s more complicated, especially if it’s Madrid or Barcelona,” Guardiola told a news conference ahead of City’s Premier League clash with Wolves.
“Normally when you are involved with Madrid and Barcelona you are going to lose. You have to be quicker and more efficient.
“But I’m not talking about the case of the Ajax player because he is an Ajax player. There are many players, not just one if it doesn’t happen.”
Guardiola has ruled out making any new signings in the January transfer window but says a new holding midfielder will be a priority for the start of next season.
City have struggled to cope when they have been without Fernandinho in that position, losing both the Premier League games he missed, but the Brazilian will be 34 when next season kicks off.
De Jong, along with Wolves’ Ruben Neves and Lyon’s Tanguy Ndombele, have been linked with a possible move to the Etihad but Guardiola insisted they will not overspend to fill the role.
“Fernandinho’s role, it’s so difficult to find [a similar player],” he added. “He knows the Premier League, after three years together here, he knows everything and that’s so important. But, of course, for the next season it’s an important target to find. He’ll be 34 and he cannot play every few days.
“A month ago, I started reading ‘Ruben Neves, £100m.’ That is not going to happen, we are not going to pay £100m for a holding midfielder. Of course, all departments in the club, we have in every position four or five or six options — depending on age, what we believe and, of course, the price.
“Our wage bill for the players is eighth or ninth or tenth in Europe, so there are eight or nine clubs where the wages are higher than what Manchester City pay. We try to be stable in everything.
“When we spent a lot last season, it was because the team was old — it was 30-31 years old and that’s why we did it. But we cannot do it every season. We have a limit and cannot spend more so that’s why we need to be careful with the players and try next season to see what we can do to improve.”
But with City still fighting for silverware on four fronts, the Catalan is happy to rely on John Stones and Ilkay Gundogan until the end of the season.
“Sometimes we need a more defensive role like Stones or for last two games with Gundogan, when we need a creative player in that position in the final third,” Guardiola added.
“In Gundogan I think you can’t find one player in Europe in that position, who is more clear in their passing than Gundogan and we have it. That’s why in the transfer window when you ask me [about new signings] and I say no, it’s because I know the players and the quality and know exactly what they can give us until the end of the season.”