UPDATE: Man City is ready to spend €100m for Gvardiol – Europe’s most complete centre-back

Just 21 years old, left-footed and showing himself at RB Leipzig and the Croatia national team, Josko Gvardiol could be an effective, long-term project for the Manchester City defence.

Leipzig have bid around €100m (£86m) for the 21-year-old centre-back, and are said to be ready to let him go. Meanwhile, the latest offer from Man City costs 90 million euros, and is expected to increase soon.

The Daily Mail reports that “The Citizens” sporting director, Txiki Begiristain, has met with Gvardiol’s agent. The Etihad Stadium team is currently completing personal agreements with former player Dinamo Zagreb.

If the deal takes place, Gvardiol will surpass the price of 93 million euros (£80 million) of Harry Maguire, becoming the most expensive defender in history. Coach Pep Guardiola immediately embarked on the summer transfer of 2023 after the historic treble last season. There, the 52-year-old captain made the young Croatian star a top target.

Worth the price

After Gvardiol’s excellent performance in Croatia’s 0-0 draw against Belgium in the 2022 World Cup group stage, the result that helped “Vatreni” advance to the round of 16, coach Zlatko Dalic praised the 21-year-old student as a best defender of the world. This assessment is not necessarily true, especially after the 21-year-old star ball was eliminated by Lionel Messi in the semi-final against Argentina afterwards.

However, Gvardiol is undeniably one of the most promising young defenders in Europe. The person on the Leipzig payroll is the number one choice in the Croatian defense, with 21 appearances so far. At the 2022 World Cup, in addition to the phase with the defeat against Messi, this center-back played impressively and was only behind Enzo Fernandez in the tournament’s best young player award.

After two seasons in the Bundesliga, Gvardiol made 59 appearances for Leipzig, contributing 3 goals and 2 assists. The Croatian defender also has experience in the Champions League with 12 appearances. If joining Man City, the above number may increase sharply in the future.

Gvardiol is a complete central defender, with good defensive skills and ball translation. Former centre-back Dinamo Zagreb is not capable of duels and the ball is in the leading group of the Bundesliga in the 2022/23 season. However, the 21-year-old has the decisiveness to execute the ball, a quality described by The Guardian as “exactly like Aaron Wan-Bissaka”.

Gvardiol rarely has to make disputes because of his mind-oriented gameplay. Last season in Germany’s number one league, Leipzig controlled the ball an average of 56% per game, second only to Bayern Munich. That means the Croatian midfielder is more involved in attacking situations than defending.

Therefore, the situations that Gvardiol has to face are mainly counter-attacks, conditions that make this player’s precise dribbling ability even more effective. In the field of offensive organization, the 21-year-old defender has a pass success rate of 91.1%, the eighth highest in the Bundesliga season 2022/23.

In the case of facing weak passes from teammates, Gvardiol with the ability to choose a good position often actively goes up to get the ball. After that, the defender is technical enough to dribble the ball up to pass the opponent’s strikers and then pass it to his teammates, continuing to deploy the ball.

Left-footed, a “rare” in the central midfield position, Gvardiol often plays to the left. Not only that, the 21-year-old also has the ability to shine from set pieces in big matches, such as a header against Man City in the first leg of last season’s Champions League round of 16, or against Morocco in the third place match of the 2022 World Cup.

With the above reasons, not only Man City, Tottenham, Liverpool and Real Madrid have all targeted Gvardiol. When the clubs above do not have enough motivation to spend 100 million euros on the Croatian player, the green half of Manchester is the best candidate to win the signature of one of Europe’s top young central defenders.

Fits Pep

The sublime performance at the World Cup in Qatar contributed greatly to the rapid increase in the value of Gvardiol. Then when Messi overcame former defender Dinamo Zagreb in a one-on-one position to assist Julian Alvarez to raise the score to 3-0 for Argentina against Croatia in the semi-finals of this tournament, the Leipzig player had to receive a lot of ridicule.

However, a false 10-second moment cannot mask the great potential that Gvardiol possesses. In parallel with this, the ability of the 21-year-old midfielder is in line with the philosophy of coach Guardiola.

The Spanish strategist advocates using the tactic of organizing the ball from home, which requires central defenders with good technique and ability to pass the ball. Last season, the 52-year-old captain also had the initiative to play with 4 central defenders, including one who came up to play as a central midfielder, usually John Stones.

Pep’s need to own a central defender is now much greater than when he was still using the scheme with 2 full-backs in the past. In that context, Aymeric Laporte, a left-footed centre-back, is forecast to be about to leave the green half of Manchester.

With a forte position as a left-sided centre-back, Gvardiol can play on the leftmost left side of Man City’s central quartet. The reason this defender can’t play mid-back is Ruben Dias, who is still asserting his value. But, even in the left-sided position, can Gvardiol compete with Nathan Ake and partly Manuel Akanji, the Champions League winners last season?

Most likely Gvardiol will be given a year to get used to Pep’s tactics, as was the case with Jack Grealish. After that, if he continues to develop himself, the Croatian player has the ability to get the main kick at Man City. At the age of 21, Gvardiol could even be a piece of City’s defense for the next decade.

With Pep on the coaching bench, “The Citizens” achieved many professional successes and attracted the top stars in Europe. After completing the Mateo Kovacic deal from Chelsea a few days ago, Gvardiol could very well be the next talent to be bought by Man City.

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