Pep Guardiola revealed what he got wrong regarding Joao Cancelo in his early Man City career, and broke his silence on new striker Julian Alvarez.
Cancelo, 27, has developed into one of the world’d leading full-backs over the last 18 months. The Portuguese international is equally adept at operating on either flank. He provides City with the level of attacking output from full-back that only Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson can match.
As such, it came as no surprise to see City announce Cancelo had recently signed a new contract. The deal secured Cancelo’s future at the Etihad until 2027.
When speaking in his Friday press conference (via the Manchester Evening News), Guardiola was asked if Cancelo is the best in the world.
Rather than provide a direct response to that question, Guardiola surprisingly admitted he had early issues after Cancelo arrived from Juventus in 2019.
Pep admits to early Cancelo mistakes
“Maybe the people won’t believe me, but the decision to extend my contract belongs to the club, I’m not involved.
“Everyone knows how important he is, this season, last 2-3 seasons. We struggled together in the first part, we didn’t agree with things.
“Part of my mistakes, but now he’s incredible. I’m delighted he’s happy here and can play here for many years.
“He can play many positions, can play every day. He’s beloved, so funny, I’m pleased for him, McAtee, [Josh] Wilson-Esbrand, [Oscar] Bobb.”
Guardiola was probed on the nature of the issues he had with Cancelo. The Spaniard revealed Cancelo is the type of player who does not react well to time on the bench. But given his imperious form over the last 18 months, he has now made himself practically immune to rotation.
“Normally now he’s playing every day is the main reason,” explained Guardiola. “There are players who accept more playing minutes, others are not happy and have to understand that and the reason why.
“Full commitment. We know each other much better, every player must be treated different. I got more time to know him, how sensitive he is, he has a big heart.
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“Some players you have to treat differently, I need time to understand, finally I understand more.
“He’s an important player, he needs to understand the way we play, he struggled a little bit. That was the reason why, as a person always was the same guy, a lovely guy. Not arguments, real clear, Joao now is happy like players who play every game.”
Alvarez good enough to be here now – Guardiola
Man City splashed the cash on Argentine striker Julian Alvarez last month. The 22-year-old signed from River Plate for approximately £14m, though was loaned straight back to Argentina for the next five months.
Nonetheless, Guardiola insisted Alvarez – who operates primarily as a centre-forward – is already good enough to have made an immediate impact if City had required.
“Congratulations for City. They work to be in the present but of course for the future,” said Guardiola.
“It’s a player that could be already with us now but we have enough players, I don’t like to have too many players in several positions.
“The best is stay in River Plate, he’s done incredibly well. In the next pre-season he’ll be with us, after we’ll decide what happens, every season the squad moves.
“I am personally really pleased to have this talented young player for the next years.”