Full­backs fo­cus for Man City

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE -

LON­DON — Noth­ing re­flects the evo­lu­tion of soc­cer’s mod­ern full­back more than Manchester City’s de­ci­sion to spend around $157 mil­lion on buy­ing three in 10 days — with a fourth pos­si­bly on the way.

Ben­jamin Mendy be­came the lat­est to ar­rive at Eti­had Sta­dium on Mon­day for a re­ported $63 mil­lion, join­ing Danilo, signed from Real Madrid for $33 mil­lion on Sun­day, and Kyle Walker, a $58 mil­lion buy from Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur ear­lier this month.

In mak­ing th­ese sign­ings, City man­ager Pep Guardi­ola has both re­shaped his de­fence and. pro­vided an ex­cit­ing new range of op­tions out wide.

Where once the full­back’s job was to nul­lify the op­po­si­tion winger, now he is a fo­cal point of at­tack too, with Guardi­ola bank­ing on this trio’s abil­ity to de­liver chances for his equally ex­pen­sive strik­ers.

For Monaco, France in­ter­na­tional Mendy com­pleted five as­sists in Ligue 1 and three in the Cham­pi­ons League last sea­son, fig­ures that sug­gest more goals should now flow from Guardi­ola’s prob­lem left side.

Per­haps only City would pay such a fee — four times the amount Monaco paid Mar­seille for the 23-year-old just 12 months ago — but Mendy’s pace, tech­nique and in­tel­li­gence were ma­jor fac­tors in the French side’s suc­cess last sea­son.

Guardi­ola, who wit­nessed Mendy’s worth close up in Monaco’s Cham­pi­ons League knock­out win over City last term, has per­suaded his pay­mas­ters to fork out se­ri­ous money for a player who could make his de­but against Madrid in Los Angeles on Wed­nes­day

“Ben­jamin has all the qual­i­ties we are look­ing for in a full back,” City’s di­rec­tor of foot­ball, Txiki Be­giris­tain said on Mon­day. “For such a young player, he has a wealth of toplevel ex­pe­ri­ence.

“He is un­doubt­edly one of the world’s best full­backs, our No 1 tar­get in this po­si­tion.”

City is al­most cer­tain to ro­tate its full­backs, with Danilo, who can play on both sides, act­ing as a cover for Mendy and Walker.

Guardi­ola is also re­ported to be in the mar­ket for an­other right­back to com­plete a very ex­pen­sive set.

Last sea­son City’s full­back prob­lems frus­trated Guardi­ola, who cited his lack of op­tions as the ex­cuse for his side’s in­abil­ity to break down neigh­bor United in April’s score­less Manchester derby.

On that oc­ca­sion Guardi­ola named 32-year-old Pablo Za­baleta and Alek­san­dar Ko­larov, 31, with Bacary Sagna, 34, and Gael Clichy, 31, on the bench — a quar­tet with a com­bined age of 128.

“We don’t have full­backs to go up and down be­cause all of them are 33, 34 years old, so I adapt with the qual­ity of play­ers,” said Guardi­ola, who be­came so ex­as­per­ated that he even ex­per­i­mented with mid­fielder Fer­nand­inho.

All four of City’s rec­og­nized full­backs from last sea­son have now de­parted with Guardi­ola’s class of 2017-18 primed to form a daz­zling wide link with Leroy Sane, Ra­heem Ster­ling and Bernardo Silva.

With Ser­gio Aguero, Gabriel Jesus, Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva in the mid­dle, City threat­ens goals all over the pitch, as­sum­ing Guardi­ola can knit his tal­ents to­gether.

If he can’t, City might have just made the most ex­pen­sive mis­take in soc­cer history.

AP FILE

Manchester City on Mon­day an­nounced the sign­ing of Ben­jamin Mendy from Monaco. The 23-year-old right­back was part of the Monaco squad that won last sea­son’s French ti­tle and knocked out City on its way to the Cham­pi­ons League semi­fi­nals.

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