Manchester City do not want to lose Kyle Walker — that is for sure. They do not want to lose what he offers the club, on the pitch and off it, and they could do without the process of finding his replacement, let alone whoever that is going through the adaptation process that is common for new arrivals at the Etihad Stadium.

It was much easier for City to offer Walker a new two-year contract that included a pay rise to try to keep him at the club until much closer to the end of his career, but by that point, a seed had already been planted.

Walker had received a proposal from Bayern Munich before last season ended and having turned 33 in late May, spoke to their head coach, Thomas Tuchel, in the days after City’s treble-clinching Champions League final victory on June 10.

Soon after that, he had decided to make the move to Bayern, primarily because he had one year left on his deal at City and, having lost his place as first-choice right-back in the second half of last season, was seduced by the idea of a top European club offering him a prominent role in their team.

Nothing is agreed officially but he certainly likes the idea, to the extent that even after City showed him how important he still is to them, he accepted Bayern’s offer last week. A deal still needs to be reached between the clubs, and it may be that City make another attempt to keep Walker, but he is clearly very keen on a new challenge in Bavaria. Italy’s Juventus made an approach on Friday, after Walker had agreed to Bayern’s proposal, but it is thought a transfer to Germany remains his preference.

With the squad reporting back for pre-season training tomorrow (Monday) and then flying to Tokyo on Wednesday to begin a three-match pre-season tour to Japan and South Korea, City have several situations to resolve in a fairly short time — they kick off the Premier League season against Burnley on Friday, August 11.

They are confident that their defence come the start of the season will include Josko Gvardiol, currently of German side RB Leipzig, and that Aymeric Laporte and Joao Cancelo will be moved on, but none of those deals has transpired yet.



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Losing Walker adds uncertainty to their transfer plans; they are also waiting for news on Riyad Mahrez and Bernardo Silva, who both have serious interest from Saudi Arabia. City do not want to lose either of them but are especially keen to keep Bernardo because he is seen as the obvious candidate to replace Ilkay Gundogan, who joined Barcelona once his contract expired this summer, after West Ham’s Declan Rice elected to join Arsenal and not them.

That temporary uncertainty aside, losing Walker means City would not only be short on numbers at the back but also of variety — if their other business goes to plan they will have five centre-backs, plus Rico Lewis.

City are confident Gvardiol will join from Leipzig (Photo: Tobias Schwarz/AFP via Getty Images)

Manager Pep Guardiola plans to use four imposing defenders as his back line in the coming season and although Walker saw either John Stones or Manuel Akanji playing at right-back in the final weeks of the season, he was part of that unit for many high-profile games, including both legs of the Champions League semi-final win over Real Madrid and the FA Cup final defeat of Manchester United.

He was particularly impressive in those two matches against reigning European champions Madrid, where he kept Brazil winger Vinicius Junior quiet for most of the tie, including the entire second leg in Manchester.

Walker is also part of City’s captaincy group, and although he was bitterly disappointed not to start the Champions League final against Inter Milan in Istanbul, he still gave a speech to the team-mates who did, telling them that his dream was in their hands.

Losing his ability, dressing room presence and the option for Guardiola to mix up that four centre-back defence is obviously not an ideal scenario.

That is, unless they can remedy the situation by bringing in a replacement.

While that might sound obvious, City are not a club who appear — rightly or wrongly — especially flexible in the market, based on the fact they will usually identify their top target and then if they do not get him (or decide not to pay the asking price), will often move on without an alternative, and simply address the problem again a year later.

That is not always the case: in 2020, they were determined to bring in a centre-back because they had refused to pay Leicester City’s asking price for Harry Maguire the summer before and had not been able to secure another option. They could not sign any more players from abroad because there were no buyers for Nicolas Otamendi, which did not help.

A year later, they tried to sign Kalidou Koulibaly as a first-choice player and after deciding not to meet Napoli’s demands they switched their attention to Sevilla’s Jules Kounde. Sevilla did not want Otamendi as part of the deal, though, and so City moved on again to sign Ruben Dias from Benfica, who did take Otamendi.

They also moved late last summer to sign Akanji from Borussia Dortmund out of the blue, showing they can react to unforeseen circumstances, but as a general rule, City will not sign someone purely to fill a gap — they need to be convinced the incoming player will be a part of the squad for years to come and that they are a quality option in their own right, not just a last-resort addition.

It is a stance which can frustrate supporters keen for holes in the squad to be filled but it is hard to argue that City’s methods have cost them: they walked away from Marc Cucurella (who ended up moving from Brighton to Chelsea) last summer, felt there were no alternatives in the market and then won the treble anyway — having let Cancelo leave halfway through the season.

Between their anticipated five centre-backs and one right-back for 2023-24, they do have versatility: Lewis, Stones and Akanji can play right-back (the first two have shown they can also move up into midfield); Stones, Dias, Ake, Akanji and Gvardiol can all play centre-back; Ake, Akanji and Gvardiol (and perhaps Lewis) can all play left-back. But, of course, even one mid-to long-term injury among the six defenders would put a serious strain on the squad, with very little room for rotation.

It seems pointless to wonder whether City might suffer from a lack of depth, given they have won trophies without a recognised left-back or striker and then loaning out Cancelo and winning the treble, but losing Walker and not replacing him would feel like pushing it to the limits even by their standards.

You can be sure, then, that City will be scouring the market for a replacement for Walker before any move to Bayern, or elsewhere, is made official. Whether anybody takes their fancy is another story.



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(Top photo: Alex Pantling/Getty Images)