Fullbacks focus for Man City
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.
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.