Joao Cancelo cost Manchester City just shy of £60m back in the summer of 2019, and although it may have taken the defender a little while to prove his worth, he’s certainly doing so now.
The Portuguese right-back has established himself as a regular in Pep Guardiola’s starting XI and based on the quality of his performances, you can understand why. The Spanish coach’s playing style requires players to be very technically skilled, fit and versatile – all things you’d associate with Cancelo and hence why he has earned the trust of the 50-year-old coach.
The 26-year-old’s time at Juventus, the club from which he joined the Manchester-based outfit, had its ups and downs and so at the time of his transfer to Eastlands the fee involved led to many raised eyebrows.
Having already signed Kyle Walker, Danilo and Benjamin Mendy prior to the arrival of the Portuguese star for a combined figure of £126.18m, Guardiola’s willingness to spend big in that particular part of the pitch has at times seen criticism come his way, but having quality in the full-back positions is clearly key to the way the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss wants his side to play.
Cancelo’s tactical adaptability has seen him shine at right-back for the Premier League leaders – that you could say should be a given based on the fact that’s his natural position, however, the role under Guardiola is far more complex.
In the City side, the full-back is required to step into the midfield often, be an extra man and assist the team as they look to dominate possession, and hypothetically suffocate their opponents. They’re expected to influence the game significantly in the attacking third and in the event of a turnover, have the tactical understanding to fill holes that need filling defensively.
It’s a demanding role and one that requires great concentration and perhaps above all, plenty of stamina. The player has displayed all of the above in an abundance and at 26 years old, he could make the position his own for many seasons to come.
Kyle Walker, a two-time Premier League champion, FA Cup winner and three-time League Cup winner with the Cityzens, has his work cut out with regards to displacing the former Valencia man. Cancelo has played 90 minutes in all but two of 20 Premier League appearances so far and you could argue has played a significant part in Manchester City’s improved defensive record.
If Pep Guardiola drew up a tick-list of the qualities he looks for in a full-back, Joao Cancelo would tick pretty much every single box. He’s the perfect Guardiola player and the hefty transfer fee mentioned prior doesn’t feel anywhere near as outrageous all of a sudden.