There are few worse kept secrets in football than Manchester City’s intention to buy full-backs this summer.
With Bacary Sagna, Gael Clichy, Aleksandar Kolarov and Pablo Zabaleta all past their peak years, City have needed investment in their wide defensive roles for a couple of seasons. Fernandinho has filled in at both right and left back at times this season, but the Brazilian is not a long-term solution. For a manager who places such emphasis on the role his full-backs play, it was surprising that Pep Guardiola entered his first Manchester City season without strengthening the position. One thing is for sure, though, he will certainly do it this summer.
As a result, City have been associated with signing any full-back who has a good game this season. Djibril Sidibe remains a standout candidate along with his Monaco team-mate Benjamin Mendy. Others will be discussed for both sides of the back line, with Guardiola in desperate need of players he can rely on to not only sure up an indifferent defence but provide a stronger option in attack than the veterans he currently has at his disposal.
The best candidate for the right-back berth, however, currently resides at a club that Manchester City are familiar with shopping at: Arsenal. Samir Nasri, Emmanuel Adebayor, Gael Clichy and Kolo Toure have all made the move from the Gunners to Manchester’s blue half in recent years, so could Hector Bellerin be the next player to make the journey?
Bellerin has the profile of a Guardiola full-back. Electric pace, natural attacking instincts and enough energy to play two positions at once, the Spaniard could form a formidable right-wing duo with Raheem Sterling, a partnership that does not bear thinking about for rival teams.
Arsenal’s financial stability has increased since they relinquished Nasri, Clichy and Adebayor to City, but Guardiola has the monetary weight behind him to pressure the Gunners into letting their star Spaniard move. The uncertainty over the future of Arsene Wenger may be serve as a blockade to any deal initially, however. Wenger’s future will be a determinant in the short-term for many of Arsenal’s best players, Bellerin is no different.
In comparison to the current incumbent, Bacary Sagna, Bellerin is a different option altogether. Sagna has had a decent season, but the Frenchman was never an attack-minded full-back and, at 34, is increasingly conservative and coming to the end of his career. Offensively he is limited and, although secure for much of the season, he can be found wanting in defence and one-on-one situations.
Bellerin, unsurprisingly, leads Sagna in chances created, key passes, successful take ons and interceptions. They are level on blocks per game, but it is Bellerin’s attacking numbers that really stand out. Having started his career as a winger, the Spaniard has played a similarly attacking role from the right-back berth for Arsenal this season and enjoyed great success as not just an option in the final third, but as an additional creator.
Turning 22 this weekend, he is the ideal summer signing for Guardiola. Options like Sidibe, Benjamin Henrichs and Serge Aurier will undoubtedly be linked to City this window, but none would send out quite the message that signing Bellerin would. He is not the cheapest option, yet his age and quick adaptation to Premier League football would make it a low risk, massive reward transfer.