It’s a move no one saw coming 48 hours ago – Manchester City full-back Joao Cancelo has joined Bayern Munich on loan for the rest of the season.
The 28-year-old played a vital role in the Premier League titles Pep Guardiola’s side have won over the past two seasons but have fallen out of favor and will move to Germany with an option to join permanently for £70million euros (£61.5). m) in summer.
The Portuguese defender, who moved in 2019 from Juventus for £60millionhas played more minutes for City than any other defender this season.
So why was he allowed to leave? How did he fall out of favor? Where does it start from Manchester City? What do experts and fans think?
“It’s Guardiola flexing his muscles”
Cancelo has played 1,866 minutes in all competitions this season – 68 more than Manuel Akanji, City’s second most played defender. He appeared in 26 games and was on track to play a similar level of games to the past two seasons – 43 and 52.
However, only 256 minutes have passed since domestic football returned after the World Cup, with him taken off at half-time at Chelsea. His other two starts were defeats at Manchester United in the Premier League and Southampton in the Carabao Cup.
His dive coincided with the emergence of 18-year-old Rico Lewis and the improved form of Nathan Ake.
Without a likely replacement in the January window, City will enter the remaining four months of the season with just 19 senior outfield players.
Also included in that number are winger Cole Palmer, 20, and left-back Sergio Gomez, 22, with the pair playing just 216 minutes combined in the Premier League this season. They only have two recognized full-backs in Lewis and Kyle Walker.
With the Blues still competing on three fronts – they have five points from Arsenal in the Premier League and in the Champions League and FA Cup round of 16 – does that leave them short for the rest of the season? season ?
There are Cancelo reports being frustrated with his lack of minutes and arguments with Guardiola, and former Blackburn striker Chris Sutton told BBC Radio 5 Live that was the only reason he could understand City allowing a transfer.
“I’m shocked by Joao Cancelo because Oleksandr Zinchenko has been sold and the lack of options Pep Guardiola has in those back areas,” Sutton said.
“From the outside it looks like some sort of altercation or meltdown because why would Pep Guardiola risk this?
“It just seems to me like it’s Pep Guardiola flexing his muscles. It looks like there’s been some sort of fallout.
“Right now Manchester City fans will be thinking ‘blimy, we have a lot to do in the Premier League because Arsenal are absolutely stealing’. They would still consider Cancelo their best full-back, so that’s a real surprise.”
“I wanted to play but I don’t see it as a definitive departure”
Cancelo addressed the reports at a press conference, saying his main reason for leaving was a desire to play more.
“There was speculation that my relationship with Pep [Guardiola] wasn’t the best, but the fact is that I wanted to play more,” Cancelo said.
“I wanted to start this new adventure as soon as possible. I enjoyed my time at City and I’m still under contract with the club so I don’t see it as a permanent departure.
“Bayern are a great club, one of the best in the world. I know this team lives for titles and it’s a huge motivation for me to now play alongside these amazing players in a team.”
Bayern Munich sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic said: “Joao is a player we’ve been thinking about for a while now because we appreciate his qualities very much.
“He fits our system perfectly with his attacking style of play and drive, and his mentality and experience fit very well into our team. I’m confident that Joao will help us in the weeks and months to come wherever we want. win titles.”
Analysis – move shows Guardiola’s bravery
Simon Stone, BBC Sport
Pep Guardiola has never hidden that he wouldn’t keep a disgruntled player and Joao Cancelo isn’t happy with his limited playing time.
The blunt truth is that in a season where City have struggled to find the consistency and effectiveness of recent campaigns, Cancelo is among those who have fallen short of the required levels.
The arrival of Erling Haaland has triggered some tactical adjustments and Cancelo is no longer the force he used to be.
There are question marks over the fitness of John Stones, Aymeric Laporte and Ruben Dias, so this move is not without risk.
But Guardiola led City to four titles in five seasons, and by sanctioning that move he showed he was brave enough to make decisions he believed would give the club the best chance of continued success.
What will City lose without Cancelo?
Cancelo, who signed to rival Kyle Walker for the right-back position, has been widely used at left-back over the past two and a half seasons.
His ability to slot into midfield and act as a double pivot alongside Rodri, while also being able to attack down the wing and cut and cross the ball, made him an integral part of the way Guardiola set up his side.
However, a tactical adjustment that sees City often playing three centre-backs out of a back four, allowing one of the full-backs – often Rico Lewis in recent weeks – to drift into midfield has limited Cancelo’s involvement.
He has provided 20 Premier League assists since the start of the 2019-20 season, behind only Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold (44) and Andrew Robertson (42), and nine goals.
‘A strange decision’ or ‘a potentially interesting company’ – how social media reacted
Andy: Joao Cancelo was an incredibly talented attacking footballer, but I never trusted him defensively. Controversial maybe, but I’m not sorry to see him go.
Graymanuk: Sad to see Joao Cancelo move on – he adds something different to Manchester City and can play left and right. Rico Lewis is promising but still too raw for the big games. At least we didn’t loan Cancelo to Arsenal!
Aaron: No one is bigger than the club. Despite all of Pep’s criticism, he’s a serial winner and if Cancelo isn’t making his mark, it’s just not good enough. Pep demands a minimum commitment. I have no sympathy for anyone who criticizes Pep’s philosophy.
RESUME : Not a Man City fan but could potentially be a bargain. Youngster Rico Lewis looks like a great prospect and a potential €70m in the summer for a 28-year-old full-back would be a pretty good sum.
Charlie: It’s a strange decision and some of Pep Guardiola’s squad selections, formation and tactics have been a bit unusual over the past few months. But Pep has a lot of credit in the bank so we’ll just have to trust and hope he gets it right.
Sick beggar: Terrible move. Selling your best defender never works, but if he’s had enough of Pep’s bizarre team selections this season, you can’t blame him.