Tactical Insights

Man City superstar Guardiola is finished with primed to join Barcelona on unfavourable terms

The president of Barcelona has confirmed his side are likely to sign a Manchester City ace Pep Guardiola no longer has use for, though the expected terms won’t please the City boss one bit, according to multiple reports.

The latest iteration of Guardiola’s ever-evolving tactics has worked wonders for John Stones. The England international is a centre-back by trade, though now finds himself joining the attack on a regular basis when stepping into midfield and beyond. However, one player who the tactical shift did not benefit was full-back Joao Cancelo.

The Portuguese had been an elite-level performer at either right-back or left-back in City’s title-winning seasons in 2020/21 and 2021/22.

But once Guardiola ushered in a back three with Stones deployed in a hybrid role, there was no obvious spot for Cancelo to fill.

Kyle Walker has survived the change and remains a regular. But on the left side of defence Guardiola now picks players who are centre-backs by trade (Nathan Ake, Josko Gvardiol).

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Cancelo, 29, was loaned to Bayern Munich for the second half of last season before being turfed out once again ahead of the current campaign to Barcelona.

The agreement does not contain an option to buy, though according to Barcelona president Joan Laporta, Cancelo is expected to be back in Catalonia next season.

Laporta wants both Joaos back

Speaking to Mundo Deportivo, Laporta said: “I think they (Joao Cancelo and Joao Felix – also on loan) will continue.

“I hope that Atletico Madrid will not put any objection to Joao Felix continuing with us and I think that Man City will not object either.

“We have an agent there who is working on the issue, Jorge Mendes, and he knows our intention to continue with the players.

“What I can’t tell you now, because it will depend a lot on the amounts, is whether we are going to sign them or extend the loan.

“It will surely be an extension of the transfer, already setting a price.”

Taking to X, transfer guru Fabrizio Romano clarified what Laporta meant in that last line. Per the reporter, Laporta was referencing a loan with an option/obligation to buy.

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Another loan won’t please Guardiola

Spanish outlet Sport recently claimed Guardiola ‘does not want Cancelo in his squad’ any longer. The pair are understood to have locked horns over Cancelo’s diminished role in the 2022/23 season prior to his winter loan to Bayern.

However, all reports have aligned in the claims Man City and Guardiola want to sell Cancelo outright rather than sanction another loan.

The obvious benefit there is the proceeds from a sale can be put towards new recruits this summer.

But given Barca’s well-documented financial woes and Laporta’s latest comments, it appears Barca will push for a loan that contains an option/obligation to buy.

Whether Man City will begrudgingly accept that method of transfer remains to be seen. But what is clear is Barca want Cancelo back and Cancelo would love to continue his career at the Camp Nou.

Back in early March Cancelo was asked during the presentation of Ronald Araujo’s documentary about his future.

When quizzed on if he hopes to stay at Barcelona for the 2024/25 campaign and potentially beyond, Cancelo did not hesitate to respond with a quick “yes, yes” before leaving the photocall area of ​​the event.

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