Manchester City are a side famed for their immense strength in depth and financial power, but Pep Guardiola has been without a full-fit, natural left-back for almost the entirety of two seasons.
The 2017 summer transfer window was a watershed moment for the club. After finishing in 4th place in the league which, according to a multitude of keyboard warrior experts, confirmed Fraudiola was indeed a chequebook manager after all, City went into the transfer market with a coherent plan: to sign quality at full-back.
Out went Gael Clichy, Bacary Sagna and club legend Pablo Zabaleta; in came Kyle Walker, Danilo and Benjamin Mendy.
The latter was one of the stars of Monaco’s route to the 2016/17 Champions League semi-final, which included a last-16 victory over City, alongside the likes of Kylian Mbappe, Fabinho and Thomas Lemar.
And the scene was set for Mendy to blossom into a perfect long-term option at left-back following an incredibly bright opening to his time in Manchester. A cruciate ligament rupture, however, has sent his development on a downward spiral which has sent his reputation tumbling with it.
The notorious social media sensation has had his moments in the limelight. City fans have embraced his exuberance and playful attitude and, to a certain degree, his uncensored media antics have been a breath of fresh air within a footballing world which strangles the vast majority of players from expressing true personality in the public eye.
But a distinct shift in opinion is taking place as frustration begins to build regarding Mendy’s lack of professionalism. Back in September 2018, the France international was disciplined after arriving late for treatment the day after he attended Anthony Joshua’s world championship victory over Alexander Povetkin in London.
Forgiveness was offered as he started five Premier League games shortly after his late-show, including high-magnitude fixtures against Liverpool and Manchester United, but another injury setback and yet another moment of off-field controversy has induced a fresh set of questions regarding his long-term future.
According to the Daily Telegraph, Mendy was spotted at a nightclub in the early hours on Saturday morning last weekend, just a few hours before he was due to attend a training session – a damning revelation which doesn’t bode well for his future.
And this is what Guardiola had to say about the situation: “I would prefer him to go home earlier but I don’t control the players in that situation. They are old enough to know what they have to do. I’m not his father.”
The man who talks so much about sharks may be swimming into the gaping jaws of a great white this summer after his latest display of disrespect towards club and manager.
Guardiola was ruthless in his decision to offload Clichy, Sagna, Zabelta, Jesus Navas, Samir Nasri, Nolito, Kelechi Iheanacho, Fernando and Aleksander Kolarov all in the same summer, so there is no reason why Mendy should be acting so utterly impervious.
Let’s not forget that, on the rare occasions the 24-year-old has been fit enough for selection, he regularly rattles the ball into the penalty area with as much ferocity as his legs can physically provide, as if he is a retired banker playing squash. This is football: the aim of the game isn’t to kick it really really hard, Benjamin, some finesse and intelligence is required to pick the lock.
With the latest display of disrespect lingering in Guardiola’s mind, there is almost no doubt that his attention will be turning towards the summer market. A replacement is needed; City cannot go another season without a reliable and exemplary professional to call upon.
The tangible effects of Kyle Walker’s impact in City’s first season were there for all to see, even if his second campaign has been comparably underwhelming. A player who contributes to the homegrown quota, has experience in the Premier League and possesses both the engine and technique to influence the game at both ends of the pitch, Walker has provided the blueprint for future acquisitions.
A desire to follow that blueprint will lead Guardiola in one clear direction: straight to the King Power Stadium to Ben Chilwell.
Chilwell is reportedly a leading target for the Citizens following his brilliant rise to prominence. The early stages of his career hinted that he would grow into a decent footballer at this level, but he is already exceeding expectations with the consistency of his performances for both Leicester and England.
The 6-cap international only turned 22 shortly before the turn of the year and that will naturally intensify interest from Guardiola and the rest of the decision makers at the Etihad Stadium.
Considering he could form solid understandings at international level with both Raheem Sterling and John Stones, his age, the fact he would contribute to the homegrown quota, and the quality he has already showcased in the Premier League, it’s fair to say it would be a stroke of genius if City can secure his signature.
Mendy may well have put the final nail in his coffin by underlining his lack of commitment to his career last weekend, thus forcing Guardiola’s hand with Chilwell’s development providing plenty of food for thought.