Dani Alves snub intensifies spotlight on Man City chief Txiki Begiristain
It looked like Manchester City had the summer transfer window well under control when they signed Bernardo Silva from Monaco in May. The season had been over for less than a week and Pep Guardiola had already secured one of his reinforcements for August -- and it was looking better when, in early June, the club confirmed goalkeeper Ederson had joined from Benfica, too.
City also made their other intentions clear. New full-backs have been a requirement for some time, but with other areas of the team to address it was pushed onto the back burner during the 2015 and 2016 summer windows. But in 2017, with Pablo Zabaleta, Bacary Sagna and Gael Clichy all released -- and with Aleksandar Kolarov moved to centre-back -- it became a must.
However, fans are becoming uneasy as the progress has ground to a halt. There are regular reports that the club is confident they can sign their targets, though some might say that's misplaced given that Dani Alves -- who looked a dead cert -- has slipped through their grasp.
City had done the hard work, tempting him away from Juventus and allowing him time to get married and enjoy his summer. It was a leisurely approach that allowed PSG to steal in.
Missing out on a 34-year-old free transfer could be spun as a bullet dodged, had it not left City now desperate to sign at least one, maybe two, others in his position. How much has the fee just gone up for Tottenham's Kyle Walker?
It's understandable the fans could get nervous about a reported deal for Monaco's Benjamin Mendy, even if the defender dropped a big hint on social media. It's another transfer that's been in the pipeline for some time and doesn't yet have a conclusion.
It wouldn't be the first time in recent history that the club has missed out when they've expected a target to sign. In fact, players rejecting a move to City is becoming a worrying trend and director of football Txiki Begiristain isn't showing any signs of being able to stop it with the loss of Alves.
Last summer, Aymeric Laporte made an 11th-hour U-turn to stay at Althetic Bilbao, despite all but his signature being completed. City were also keen on Arsenal's Hector Bellerin in 2016, but he opted to extend his deal in North London, and Leonardo Bonucci was reportedly tempted by a move to Manchester -- but talks between City and Juventus broke down and the defender signed a new contract as well.
Even Fabian Delph took some convincing to join the summer before, as he U-turned twice on the move from Aston Villa.
City's transfer business hasn't been right for some time. Targets have gotten away at the last second, and too much money has been spent on inadequate players.
Though Begiristain has brought in some of City's stars in recent years -- Kevin De Bruyne, Gabriel Jesus, Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane look like they'll be the highlights on the attacking front -- the director of football has also wasted a lot of cash on below-par squad members.
The list of disappointing transfers is longer than it should be. The club splashed out £42 million on Eliaquim Mangala, £28.5m on Nicolas Otamendi, and £25m on Wilfried Bony for very little return.
It's even more disappointing to see that the spine of the team was signed before Begiristain took his post. City can't hit top gear without Vincent Kompany, Yaya Toure, David Silva and Sergio Aguero in the team, all brought in under Begiristain's predecessor, Garry Cook.
With the campaign opener at Brighton now less than a month away and a preseason tour of the U.S. beginning next week, City are scrambling to get their business done.
On-the-pitch decisions made by former manager Manuel Pellegrini and, last season, by Guardiola, have contributed, but a lot of the club's problems since 2014 have come from poor recruitment. A patchwork job has left City treading water, while Tottenham and Chelsea in particular strengthened significantly.
It feels like a world ago since Cook and Roberto Mancini worked together to turn City into FA Cup winners and then Premier League champions. In Begiristain's first full season as director of football, the club won their first domestic double.
However, in the three campaigns since, they've flattered to deceive, battling to stay in the top four instead of competing for major honours. The League Cup, City's only silverware in that time, is the fourth-choice competition and doesn't cut the mustard for the investment made.
If City end 2017-18 again blaming their failings in the transfer market for a fourth underwhelming season in a row, the question of whether Begiristain is fit for purpose will once again be on many fans' lips.
David Mooney is ESPN FC's Manchester City blogger. Twitter: @DavidMooney