Pep Guardiola claims Ruben Neves is out of Manchester City’s price range.
City have been linked regularly with the Portuguese midfielder, who has been one of the stars of Wolves’ impressive first season back in the Premier League.
But while City boss Guardiola would like to strengthen his central midfield options, he says the figures being mentioned in relation to 21-year-old Neves are beyond the champions.
Guardiola said: “A month ago I started reading ‘Ruben Neves, £100million’. That is not going to happen. We are not going to pay £100million for a holding midfielder.
“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.”
In any case, Guardiola has intimated he is not sure if Neves, who City will face when Wolves visit the Etihad Stadium on Monday, would fit into his preferred system.
He said: “He’s an excellent player. It involves playing with two holding midfielders – not just one – but he’s an excellent player.”
Another player frequently linked with City is Ajax’s Frenkie De Jong, but Guardiola has refused to add credence to the speculation.
He said: “I’m not talking about the case of the Ajax player because he is an Ajax player. I don’t talk about players not here, never did and never will.”
A holding midfielder would be a priority for Guardiola because City currently have no natural replacement for Fernandinho.
The 33-year-old Brazilian was badly missed as City suffered costly back-to-back defeats to Crystal Palace and Leicester over Christmas.
Guardiola said: “It’s not easy to find the specific quality of the players.
“There are players who can play in that role but, specifically Fernandinho’s role, it’s so difficult to find. He knows the Premier League and, 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.”
In the meantime, Guardiola will hope Ilkay Gundogan can fill in if needed. The German at least looked comfortable in the position as Fernandinho was rested for the cup thrashings of Rotherham and Burton over the past week, which City won by a combined scoreline of 16-0.
Guardiola said: “Gundogan played the last two games like a holding midfielder. He had more space than usual but he was so clever. He made an incredible assist and a lot of passes before the finish.
“His quality is incredible. He can play that holding midfield role. He has the quality and the vision to pass. When he’s close to the box he arrives in the right tempo and the right moment to score a goal. He’s a fantastic player.”
Gundogan’s contract expires at the end of next season and City are keen to tie the 28-year-old to a new deal.
Guardiola said: “He knows what we want, yes, but it’s in our hands.”
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