Manchester City very rarely let a player leave the club if they aren’t happy, or at least content, with him leaving. When Raheem Sterling left to join Chelsea in the summer, there was a feeling that his time with Pep Guardiola’s side had ran its course. City didn’t push him out of the door – and would have been happy to see him stay – but they certainly didn’t stop him from twisting the handle.
With Ilkay Gundogan being the only first-term player whose contract expires in 2023, City are relaxed and happy about the current situation at the club. It remains to be seen if the German will stay with Guardiola’s side, but either way, the club will still see the situation as being a favourable one
Phil Foden, the star boy at the Etihad, is expected to sign a new deal with City at some point in the coming months, with his current contract expiring in 2024. All parties expect the negotiations to go smoothly, and it would come as a major shock if the attacking midfielder departed.
However, City do have one contract situation that needs sorting, maybe not now, but definitely very soon. Like Foden, Kyle Walker’s current deal runs out in 2024, but unlike Foden, it remains unclear what will happen with the veteran right-back.
The 32-year-old, who has 20 months left on his current contract with the Premier League champions, has been missing this month after picking up an injury, but he was still included in England’s latest squad to face Italy and Germany in the Nations League later this month.
Although he has, on a number of occasions, played as part of a back-three for the Three Lions, he remains the first-choice right-back for his country. While he faces fierce competition for a starting position at England – with Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold and Chelsea’s Reece James both vying to start on the right – the full-back position with City is very much his own – and it looks unlikely to change anytime soon.
And yet, the City hierarchy have decided to delay talks about extending his stay at the Etihad beyond July 2024 until after the World Cup finals in Qatar. Although, given his age, he is certainly entering the twilight of his elite career, Walker boasts an excellent fitness record and had missed just seven matches through injury in his entire City career prior to his current setback.
It is somewhat understandable that City chiefs are in no rush to tie down the former Tottenham man just yet. They will monitor how he deals with what could prove to be five weeks of World Cup action, as well as his performance levels when he returns to the club following the tournament.
Walker, who arrived at the Etihad in a then-record £50million move from Spurs in 2017, has won four Premier League titles, four League Cups and an FA Cup. The defender – who has made 68 appearances for his country – will be 34 by the time his existing deal finishes, but he has all the qualities required to continue performing at the very top.
Having made 222 appearances for City, registering six goals and 17 assists along the way, Walker has been a mainstay in a side that has won four Premier League titles in the past five seasons. Although the right-back position has undoubtedly changed and progressed in recent years, the England international has found a way to move with the times, while also remaining as an accomplished and trusted defender. Something that his full-back rivals are often criticised for.
Even at 34, Walker would still be an asset for Guardiola, or whoever is in charge in two years time. Should City choose to recruit a new right-back next summer, or even the following season, having a player of his experience in the building could be vital in continuing the club’s success.
It would actually be unfair to suggest that he couldn’t do a job in the top-flight at 34 – far worse players than him have done exactly that in recent years.
Should City, or Walker, decide that 2024 is the perfect time for the two camps to part ways, a return to where it all started – at boyhood club Sheffield United – could certainly be on the cards. But for now, the Englishman’s time at the Etihad is still far from over, and the club should be doing everything to keep it that way.