Pep Guardiola has enjoyed immense success throughout his career whenever he has had the best full-backs at his disposal. Dani Alves was able to quench Guardiola’s immense expectations from his fullbacks in the best possible manner, and he was a huge factor behind Barcelona’s success under Guardiola. Even though Guardiola has had a huge amount of financial muscle at Manchester City, the fullback position has been a contentious issue since he came to the club in 2016.
Guardiola has used players like Bacary Sagna, Pablo Zabaleta, Gael Clichy, Kyle Walker, Danilo, and Benjamin Mendy in this position. Each player has had their up and down period. Even though Walker was a regular throughout last season, he had issues defensively.
City are expected to address this deficiency in the fullback positions with the signing of Joao Cancelo. The Portuguese right-back has consistently been linked with a move to the Etihad Stadium for some time now.
The arrival of Maurizio Sarri appears to have paved way for the exit of the 25-year-old. The Portuguese may have a contract with Juventus until 2023, but he does not figure in the plans of Sarri. The former Chelsea boss is known to freeze out players who are not in his plans and the situation does not tend to change with time. Hence, Cancelo’s only option may be to leave Juventus with the Italian outfit valuing the player at around £54 million.
City are prepared to pay around £36 million for the fullback. Crucially, the club are ready to part company with Danilo, who was a £26.5 million signing from Real Madrid in the summer of 2017. Yet, the Brazilian has featured very little for City in his two years with the team. He has only featured in 31 league games over the last two seasons combined. There may have been the option to sell Kyle Walker, who would fetch a better price in the market, but the former Spurs defender recently extended his contract with City.
Guardiola demands a lot from his fullbacks, who are expected to overlap the wingers in order to add a different dimension to his team’s attacking play. Moreover, they have to make an impact in the defensive aspect by getting back to help out the central defenders. All these require a vast amount of energy. It is not a surprise that Guardiola has not been able to find a suitable player to replicate the Dani Alves of his Barcelona outfit.
Even though right-back is not a position that needs serious improvement at Manchester City, Cancelo’s arrival is expected to stiffen up the competition for the fullback positions. Walker should lead in his first-team spot even after the few wobbles that he displayed last season. Cancelo may not be guaranteed a first-team spot right away, but it is still much better than training with the reserves at Juventus.
After starting his career with Benfica’s youth setup, Cancelo has represented the likes of Valencia and Inter Milan before moving to Juventus in the summer of 2018 for around €40 million.