Who could replace Joao Cancelo at Man City?

Joao Cancelo is closing in on a loan move to Barcelona. The deal is expected to include an option to buy which means the Portuguese international may have played his last game for the English club. Here’s a look at who could replace Joao Cancelo at Man City.

While Cancelo spent the second half of last season on loan at Bayern Munich, he was a key player for the Citizens prior to that, starting 36 times in the 2021/22 Premier League and 16 times last season in the English top flight before he was somewhat surprisingly shipped off to the Bundesliga club.

A bust-up with Pep Guardiola is widely seen as the reason why Cancelo suddenly fell out of favour in Manchester. Meanwhile the club’s ability to go on and win the treble without the full back has only hastened his departure and only the financial struggles at Barcelona have held up this deal, although all parties seem confident it will still go through.

Who could replace Joao Cancelo at the Etihad?

Josko Gvardiol

Josko Gvardiol
MB Media / Icon Sport

While Manchester City have hardly struggled without Cancelo, they haven’t really replaced him as such to date and assuming he leaves, Kyle Walker will be the only remaining experienced player in their squad who could be viewed as a natural full back.

Big money summer signing Josko Gvardiol has been used at left back so far though and it may well be that Pep Guardiola is happy with his current options, particularly given he frequently utilises a back three in any case. 

21 year old Gvardiol is clearly comfortable in the role and in games where City play with a back four, it’s likely that he will operate as the left back with Kyle Walker at right back. That will give them strong defensive foundations with Gvardiol the more conservative of the two full backs and clearly capable of tucking in to make it a three man defence at times when Walker commits forwards.

Sergio Gomez

An option for a more attack-minded left back who’d be closer to replicating the threat that Cancelo offered would be Sergio Gomez. The 22 year old signed a four year deal with the club last summer and appeared 23 times in all competitions last season, but was restricted to just 2 Premier League starts suggesting Pep Guardiola is not yet convinced he’s ready to play an important role.

Another issue is uncertainty about Gomez’s best position. The Spain U21 international is a left footed player who is equally capable of playing as a winger on either side of the pitch. He certainty doesn’t possess the defensive qualities of a Gvardiol or a Walker and the City boss may decide he is best utilised further up the pitch.

Rico Lewis

Rico Lewis
Spi / Icon Sport

Another young player who could step up to have a more important role in Cancelo’s absence is Rico Lewis. The 18 year old recently signed a new five year deal at the Etihad, although he’s another youngster whose best position remains unclear.

Lewis has been most frequently used at right back, although like Cancelo he can play on the left and has even been used as a holding midfielder when City have gone with a 3-4-2-1 approach. The teenager made 10 Premier League starts last season and was chosen in the opening game of this campaign at Burnley where he was used as a left back.

A new signing

The lack of full backs who are genuine specialists in the role, could see Manchester City look to make a late move in the market. It’s unlikely to be a real big money signing with Guardiola having shown he is happy to play without full backs and the successful results that approach has yielded, but they may look to bring in another young player to compete with the likes of Sergio Gomez and Rico Lewis.

One possible option is Valentin Barco, a 19 year old left back at Boca Juniors. Reports suggest City may be willing to rival Brighton in the race for his signature. Although inexperienced, the Argentine has bags of potential and City may try to jump ahead of other European clubs by moving for a player who could offer them a bit more depth at full back this season.