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Cancelo and Pep’s ‘clash’ – Should he stay or should he go now?

Updated: Jul 24, 2023

Speaking to the media on City’s pre-season tour in Japan Pep Guardiola was asked about Joao Cancelo: “He is here. Joao has been so important for us in the past. After the loan at Bayern he is back here and is part of the group. Like I said to your colleagues, we will see what happens…” The question is does Cancelo have any realistic prospect of getting his career at the Etihad back on track? Was it just Pep being diplomatic or is the Spaniard prepared to forgive, if not forget?

Will Pep countenance having Cancelo back?

Even if City want to sell the player, Guardiola is hardly likely to be overly critical in public. It would only serve to drive down any prospective transfer fee.

But what transfer fee? There’s hardly a queue of potential suitors, apart from the crooks of Catalonia, and only then would Barcelona want him on loan or a free transfer. With Pep seemingly preferring a defence comprising 3 or 4 centre backs - take your pick from Dias, Stones, Ake, Akanji, Laporte and seemingly, Gvardiol - you wonder how Cancelo would fit in.

Puzzling! Would Cancelo fit an attacking role at City?

When he made his shock loan move to Bayern Munich at the end of the January transfer window, the Portuguese defender insisted the switch was not down to his relationship with Guardiola, refusing to rule out a return to the club.

There are those within the club who would beg to differ.

Happy Days - Cancelo was integral to consecutive PL titles.

Cancelo's inability to hide his displeasure at not being picked for matches did not sit well with Pep or indeed a number of senior first team players. It’s unusual, to say the least, that an experienced player goes out of the door in the last knockings of a transfer window, without even so much as a loan fee.

It would be futile to protest that nothing was awry, but that’s the public stance of both club and player.

Cancelo enters the fray during City's 3-0 demolition of Bayern in the Champions League.

Cancelo made all the right noises upon his arrival in Munich.

Cancelo's 'dream' move lasted just 5 months.

"My decision to leave City was only based on the lack of minutes. There was speculation that my relationship to Pep Guardiola was not the best, but the fact is that I just wanted to play more and now I have the opportunity and a dream came true.”

Bernardo's shirt was the only thing Cancelo took away from Bayern's visit to City.

Cancelo was followed into Bayern by Thomas Tuchel who replaced Julian Nagelsmann as Head Coach. Tuchel had been Chelsea’s manager when they beat City 1-0 in the Champions League Final in Porto in 2021.

Bigging up his new manager Cancelo said: “Tuchel made me lose a Champions League Final, so I hope he will win it for me this year.

As we all know that didn’t turn out too well for the perennial Bundesliga champions.

Cancelo was booed by City fans at the Etihad.

City demolished them 3-0 at the Etihad, with a section of the crowd booing Cancelo when he entered the fray as a second half substitute, and continuing to boo his every touch of the ball. A 1-1 draw in the second leg at the Allianz Arena dispatched the Germans 4-1 on aggregate.

Cancelo was a Bundesliga champion with Bayern.

Cancelo was part of Bayern’s Bundesliga winning team, but he was by no means a regular fixture in the first team, hence there was no chance of Munich taking up a £61.5m option to buy the problematic Portugal international.

As far as his ‘dream’ coming true, the five-month loan in Bavaria was far from it, although neither was it a nightmare.

Jubilant in June but no sign of Joao.

One wonders what he was thinking as City beat Inter Milan 1-0 in Istanbul to finally lift the Champions League trophy?

Nobody doubts Cancelo’s ability – the problem lies with his attitude. Always more adept in an attacking, rather than defending mode, could Cancelo conceivably be reintegrated into the squad as a wide midfielder?

With Mahrez going to Saudi is there a squad place available for Cancelo?

Does the imminent departure of Mahrez offer a route into any meaningful game time? He could conceivably already have burnt his bridges in Pep’s eyes and the pre-season is just a chance to put him in the shop window? Only time will tell.

Will Cancelo swallow his pride and find a way to stay at City?

He put in a decent second half performance against Yokohama F. Marinos in Japan today - including a skilful assist for Erling Haaland - in front of a 61,000+ crowd, so never say never. If – and it’s a very big ‘if’ – Pep and Cancelo can sort it out, there may yet be a third, and more harmonious option, other than the lyrics of a classic song by The Clash:

‘Should I stay or should I go now? Should I stay or should I go now? If I go, there will be trouble And if I stay it will be double So come on and let me know’

Should he stay or should he go? Pep will decide.

Failing that – and if rumours of Mikel Arteta and Arsenal’s interest in Cancelo come to fruition – it could be a case of ‘London Calling’.

By David Walker

Twitter @ReadButNeverRed @djwskyblu

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