Pep Guardiola has acknowledged finding a long-term replacement for Fernandinho is becoming a matter of increasing urgency for Manchester City.
The 33-year-old Brazilian has become one of the most important players in City’s line-up during Guardiola’s three seasons at the club, with his hard work and passing ability as a holding midfielder providing both securities in front of the defence and scope for the team to attack.
Reigning champions City have lost just one of the 19 Premier League matches in which Fernandinho has played, whereas they have been defeated in both of the games he has missed.
Guardiola does not appear to have a deputy of the same quality — John Stones, normally a center-back, struggled in the role when Crystal Palace won at the Etihad Stadium on December 22, while Ilkay Gundogan has not been entirely convincing either.
City have been linked with a move for Frankie de Jong from Ajax at the end of this season, but the Dutch midfielder is attracting significant interest from other clubs too.
Guardiola acknowledges he cannot expect Fernandinho, signed from Shakhtar Donetsk in 2013, to play as much for City as he gets older, adding a solution has to be found for next season.
“It’s not easy to find the specific quality of the players,” said Guardiola.
“Maybe there aren’t many, but there are players who can play in that role.”
The former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss added: “Specifically with Fernandinho’s role, it’s so difficult to find. He knows the Premier League, 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.”