The relationship between Pep Guardiola and Joao Cancelo has been topsy-turvy. The full-back and the manager had their ups and downs from the time the former Valencia man moved to the Etihad in 2019 from Juventus.
However, in recent seasons the Portuguese full back has become one of Manchester City‘s standout players contributing both defensively and in attack.
« We had problems when he arrived, we didn’t agree on many things, partly because of my mistakes, but now I am delighted that he is completely happy and can play here for the next few seasons, » Guardiola admitted when Cancelo renewed with City until 2027 a year ago at the height of his powers.
Cancelo has also admitted that he had tensions with Guardiola when he first joined.
« I came from Juve who had a different way of playing and I didn’t adapt to the team’s style, » Cancelo stated. « It was more my fault. I wanted to show my quality. »
After two excellent seasons – he scored three goals and provided six assists in 2020-21 and scored three goals and provided 10 assists last term – he facing questions about his future once more. His form has meant that he was a substitute in Portugal’s last two games at the Qatar 2022 World Cup.
His situation back in Manchester, far from improving, has worsened: Cancelo has only started three of City’s post-World Cup games.
The statistics don’t help him either, of the games he started, he has faced defeats against Southampton (2-0) in the League Cup, Manchester United (2-1) in the Premier League, and was substituted at half-time during the Citizens’ win against Chelsea (0-1) in the league.
Cancelo’s numbers after the 2022 World Cup
- Man City 3-2 Liverpool – Substitute – 0 minutes
- Leeds 1-3 Man City – Substitute – 22 minutes
- Man City 1-1 Everton – Substitute – 0 minutes
- Chelsea 0-1 Man City – Starter – 45 minutes
- Man City 4-0 Chelsea – Substitute – 31 minutes
- Southampton 2-0 Man City – Starter – 90 minutes
- Man United 2-1 Man City – Starter – 90 minutes
- Man City 4-2 Tottenham – Substitute – 0 minutes
- Man City 3-0 Wolverhampton – Substitute – 0 minutes
There is more. Cancelo has only started at left-back, the position in which he excelled last season, in one game after the World Cup. In fact, Guardiola has preferred to play Nathan Ake out of position rather than give Cancelo his preferred spot on the left. To make matters worse, he has played a total of zero minutes in City‘s last two Premier League games.
« We have to play with 11, we can’t play with 13, » Guardiola stated when asked why certain players have been left out. « The best players don’t always play. »
However, the City boss, who complained about the « lack of hunger » of certain players, did hint at what might be behind certain substitutions.
« As I get older, I mainly look at the body, » Guardiola stated.
« You can’t play well when the body language is not right. Sometimes you just pick players by how happy they are ».
Given the situation, the English press has already started touting the possibility of Cancelo leaving City. The full back has been linked with a possible to Real Madrid. There is also speculation that Cancelo could be used as a possible bargaining chip for AC Milan‘s Rafael Leao.
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