March 17, 2024

Pep Guardiola left Klopp, Arteta and Erik ten Hag red-faced with first Man City transfer | Football | Sport

Guardiola’s maiden window at City in 2016 was actually relatively unsuccessful. Claudio Bravo was soon axed from the starting 11 and Nolito lasted only one season. Leroy Sane was sold to Bayern Munich in 2020 amid questions over his consistency. Only John Stones, signed from Everton, remains at the club eight years on.

But it was the signing of Gundogan that set a precedent for the success City have gone on to enjoy under the former Barcelona head coach. Keen to sign a technically gifted, box-to-box midfielder, Guardiola lured Gundogan from Borussia Dortmund where he had shone under Jurgen Klopp.

Gundogan’s arrival at City effectively marked the advent of Pep-ball in the Premier League and must go down as one of the top-flight’s greatest buys. It puts to shame the first signings made by Guardiola’s rivals.

It puts to shame the first signings of the first signings made by Guardiola’s rivals. When Klopp arrived at Liverpool in October 2015, he made a point of insisting that he preferred to develop players over spending vast sums of money.

That stance meant that the only addition in the subsequent January transfer window was Marko Grujic, the Serbian midfielder whose style was at the time compared with Steven Gerrard. That was where the likeness with Gerrard ended.

Grujic played just 16 times for Liverpool and during his four years at Anfield, he spent more time on loan rather than playing for the Reds. He spent two years on loan at Hertha Berlin but has now kickstarted his career with Porto.

Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal reign has been punctuated by successful signings. The Spaniard, keen to rid the Gunners of high-earning underperformers, has prioritised young and hungry additions to his squad.

Arteta’s first signing at Arsenal was the centre-back Pablo Mari. The former Man City defender – who incidentally joined City in Guardiola’s first summer but was immediately shipped out on loan – joined the north Londoners from Flamengo.

Mari had a limited impact at the Emirates Stadium, playing in just 12 Premier League matches in three years. He joined Monza in a permanent deal last summer having spent the previous season on loan at the Italian side.

At Manchester United, Ten Hag chased a midfielder for much of his first summer after arriving from Ajax. But his initial signing was that of left-back Tyrell Malacia, whose impact with the Red Devils has been blighted by injuries and the form of Luke Shaw.

Malacia endured a tough start at Old Trafford, playing in defeats against Brentford and Brighton. The 24-year-old made 39 appearances last term but has missed the entirety of this season due to a knee problem. Malacia could of course go on to be a success.

But Malacia having the same impact as Gundogan enjoyed at City is extremely unlikely. The club’s captain during their Treble-winning campaign, the German was the first piece in Guardiola’s jigsaw. Not many managers will ever make a better first signing.


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