In Depth

Guardiola's full-back fixation has echoes of Louis van Gaal

Man City could spend more than £100m on full-backs, what does the manager plan for them?

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola equalled the world record transfer fee for a defender with his £50m signing of Kyle Walker from Spurs.

He is also being linked with a £26m move for another right-back, Danilo of Real Madrid, and, according to Sky Sports, this week had a £44.5m bid for Monaco left-back Benjamin Mendy rejected. 

Earlier in the transfer window, Guardiola missed out on Dani Alves, but is still said to be interested in Ryan Bertrand of Southampton. 

Other full-backs linked with a move to the Etihad this summer and still on the market include Serge Aurier of Paris Saint-Germain, Alex Sandro of Juventus and David Alaba of Bayern Munich.

His obsession is understandable. City focused on reinforcing other areas last year and "decided to risk eking one more season out of ageing full-backs Pablo Zabaleta, Bacary Sagna and Gael Clichy", the Manchester Evening News says. 

The experiment did not work well and all three have now been released. Aleksandr Kolarov is also heading for the exit, which leaves Walker as the only specialist full-back at the club.

In the game against Man United in the US this week, Guardiola was forced to play "Fernandinho at left back in the first half and replace him with Eliaquim Mangala, the France centre back who was loaned to Valencia last year", says Paul Hirst of The Times. It was "in effect a cry for help… a clear reminder to the board about his lack of options in defence". 

If the directors take notice, it is quite possible that Guardiola could spend more than £100m on full-backs this summer.

Once, says the MEN, the full-back was "an after-thought in English football, often a position for that solid, reliable lad who was not quite clever enough to be a winger or aware enough to play in midfield".

Not any more. Guardiola wants to spend big money and is also believed to harbour grand ambitions for the likes of Walker and Danilo. 

At Bayern Munich, for example, the Spanish coach was responsible for converting Philipp Lahm from a reliable left-back to an international standard holding midfielder, a trick he apparently wants to repeat.

But should Man City fans be concerned about the manager's full-back fixation? In his first season in charge, the former Barcelona coach resolutely ploughed his own furrow. He clearly believes in his own methods, but would an influx of full-backs serve City well? 

A glance across town to Old Trafford may provide an answer. A team packed with wide defenders was one of the hallmarks of Louis van Gaal's ill-fated spell in charge of Manchester United.

The Dutchman signed 11 senior outfielders during his time at Old Trafford and four of them - Matteo Darmian, Marcos Rojo, Luke Shaw and Daley Blind - were wide defenders. 

He also performed a "reverse Gareth Bale" and converted winger Antonio Valencia, the man bought to replace Cristiano Ronaldo, into a full-time right-back. 

In addition, Van Gaal plundered the youth team for wide defenders, handing debuts to Tyler Blackett, Guillermo Varela, Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, Donald Love and Timothy Fosu-Mensah.

It did not pay off and since arriving at Old Trafford Jose Mourinho has concentrated his efforts on the spine of the team. He has yet to discover a midfield general among his phalanx of full-backs.

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