Man City may have hinted at Pep Guardiola’s succession plan for key position

Manchester City have come a long way from the uncertainly of one key position in Pep Guardiola’s first season in charge.

In his maiden campaign at the Etihad Stadium Guardiola made the huge call to make a goalkeeper who had been the last line of defence for City’s two previous Premier League title wins not part of his plans going forward. Joe Hart was to be ruthlessly moved on to pastures new.

It was a decision that seemed very harsh at the time and, to an extent, still does. It was magnified even further and made even more a questionable decision with the form of Hart’s replacement in Claudio Bravo showed.

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Bravo proved to be a complete liability at times for City and not at the standard required to mount a Premier League title charge. It was a problem Guardiola remedied the following summer with the acquisition of Ederson from Benfica for £35m.

Five Premier League titles, an FA Cup and four League Cups later, there is no question the transfer business to bring the Brazilian to Manchester has been a success. The stopper could yet be part of a Treble-winning team this campaign.

At 29 and with a contract running until the summer of 2026, Ederson is still in the prime years of his career, especially as a goalkeeper and the ability the position offers for longevity in the game. He is not looking like his form will desert him anytime soon either.

And yet, City face a complex situation when it comes to those behind Ederson in the pecking order and for the day when the Brazilian is no longer at the Etihad Stadium. When that day will come might not be for a while yet, but it is a situation City must be mindful of.

There is a plethora of talent behind him waiting in the wings. Stefan Ortega was recruited on a free transfer from German side Arminia Bielefeld. He has been number two this season and has taken the place which Zack Steffen held previously.

Steffen himself has been out in the Championship getting game time under his belt at Middlesbrough. He was part of a Boro side which was edged out of reaching this weekend’s play-off final by Coventry City.

Pep Guardiola may already have a succession plan for Man City goalkeeper Ederson
Pep Guardiola may already have a succession plan for Man City goalkeeper Ederson

However, it seems unlikely that Steffen will be at City next season as he has already confirmed his wish to move on to pastures new. A desire for game time, like he has achieved this season, is the main factor.

Gavin Bazunu had been another stopper in contention, but City opted to sell him to Southampton last summer and bring in £12m. Aro Muric departed as well to Burnley and with both of those options gone and Steffen seemingly soon to follow them out of the door, a new prospect is needed.

But City already have that in the form of James Trafford. The 20-year-old has spent the last 18 months out on loan at Bolton Wanderers, becoming the first choice stopper there and racking up 74 appearances for Ian Evatt’s side in the process.

The Cumbrian-born goalkeeper has made no secret of his desire to one day be the first choice goalkeeper at both City and for England. Speaking last month, the shotstopper told the EFL website.: “My ambition is to be the number one for England one day, which I think I will be.”

It is an admirable ambition and one which could become a reality if the stars align. Trafford will not be at Bolton next season. The goalkeeper now needs to test himself at a higher level, at least the Championship, and possibly even the Premier League, if the opportunity arrives.

Having signed a deal until the summer of 2027, it is clear City see Trafford as a big part of their future. It could be that the stopper heads back to City to compete to be the club’s number two next season, as Wanderers boss Evatt suggested could happen when asked earlier this year.

Trafford has spent the past 18 months at a possession-based side in Bolton which plays out from the back, in a similar style to what City have employed. It was a great learning experience for Trafford to get used to what will be expected of him at the top level and get competitive minutes of it in men’s football.

City will likely have Scott Carson, who has just penned another extension to his time at the club, alongside Ortega and Trafford next season as those directly behind Ederson in the goalkeeping pecking order. That may yet change with the transfer window coming up and reports suggesting Trafford could be on the move to Burnley to play under City legend Vincent Kompany as the Clarets return back to the Premier League after a remarkable title-winning Championship campaign.

Carson remaining on at the Etihad for another year suggests Trafford could well head out on for another loan spell to continue his development. All things considered with Ederson, there is no rush to seek an instant replacement for him.

But the succession plan for when he is finally no longer at City is a complex one which is constantly evolving each year and one Guardiola’s side are seeking to remain on top of. Trafford has designs on becoming England’s No.1, and it appears that City’s plan to get him there is working so far.

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