Romelu Lukaku might be the city’s big-money signing of the summer – but Gabriel Jesus is the game-changer who can crown Pep Guardiola the King of Manchester.
Former Manchester City star Didi Hamann is convinced that Guardiola’s new-look super-squad will depose Chelsea this season and deliver the Premier League title to the Etihad Stadium again.
By his own admission, Guardiola rates his first season in the Premier League as a disaster – with City finishing third, and no silverware at all.
Old rival Jose Mourinho totally eclipsed the Spaniard, winning the EFL Cup and then the Europa League to secure a place in the Champions League for Manchester United this coming season.
But Hamann reckons Guardiola was hampered by shocking mismanagement of City’s expensive squad before he arrived – and is now primed to erase the memory of his underwhelming first season in English football.
After sorting out his personnel this summer, Guardiola will be top dog in Manchester come the end of the campaign insists Hamann.
And Brazilian wonder-boy Jesus is the key to City glory.
Hamann said: “I’m not sure we will see a different Pep Guardiola next season – but I am certain we’ll see a different Manchester City team this time.
“I can’t see beyond them for the title.
“Guardiola inherited an old, unbalanced squad with an ageing defence where all the full backs were the wrong side of 30.
“The squad was very poorly put together before Pep arrived, and given City’s resources that was staggering really.
“I remember a game a couple of seasons ago they only had one outfield player under 30.
“And although they’ve tried to lower the age profile, signing Raheem Sterling, Kevin de Bruyne, John Stones and Jesus, I wasn’t surprised when they struggled to keep up with Chelsea last season.
“Stones is a capable defender but he simply didn’t have enough support last season, and in the end it was problems in defence that cost City. Those problems were coming for a while and should have been addressed.
“In attack I still don’t think there’s anyone more potent than City – and I think Jesus will be the star turn next season.
“He’s clearly a talented boy with the right mindset.
“I read an interview with him recently and he said he wasn’t bothered about fame – he just goes out and does what he does best. I think he could be the game-changer.
“Sergio Aguero has carried City’s forward line a long time now but there still seems to be a question mark over his future at the club. That’s why having someone like Jesus, who is able to take some of the pressure off Aguero, will be vital for next season and moving forward.
“You need someone to get you 25 goals a season. Despite their firepower at times City have struggled to win games. It’s the hardest job to score goals.
“But Jesus not only does that, he sets them up.
“He will be the key player to help City win the title. Despite an early injury he still looked special last season, the kind to make the difference on a regular basis. If he stays fit, City fans will have a lot of joy with him.”
That’s gloomy news for Mourinho, and Hamann reckons there’s more to come, because United are still lacking the creativity to be Premier League champions.
Hamann – who will be playing with Michael Ballack for Germany at Star Sixes, a new six-a-side world cup for legends being staged at The O2, London, on July 13-16 – said: “United were terrible last season, dreadful to watch at times.
“But I give Mourinho a ‘pass’ grade overall, and probably a ‘plus’ with it for what he did last season.”
Former Germany star Hamann, who played for City, Liverpool, Newcastle and Borussia Dortmund added: “It’s what you win that counts and to win two trophies and get in the Champions League you can’t fault the man.
“I don’t always agree with what he does, but on pure facts you’ve got to take your hat off to him.
“At some point United punters won’t stay happy just winning trophies, because at Old Trafford there is a Man
United way of playing.
“Going forward they are bit one dimensional now and they lack creativity. This is not a United team you would pay to see. If you go back in history teams they’ve had in the past you’d happily pay money to watch.
“At the moment that’s not the case, though with Lukaku arriving it gives Mourinho the chance to put more pace in attack.
“The creative side still concerns me. Juan Mata sparkles now and again and is a terrific player but United don’t have a player to create something from nothing like City or Liverpool.
“If you look at Coutinho, Firmino, Lallana and Mane, Liverpool have plenty of options. But apart from Henrikh Mkhitaryan, United don’t have someone to unlock the door.
“It made them predictable and dire going forward last season.”
Tickets for the inaugural Star Sixes tournament — featuring the likes of Didi Hamann, Steven Gerrard, Rivaldo, Alessandro Del Piero and Carles Puyol — are on sale at www.starsixes.com