Amid reports that Josko Gvardiol is close to a move to Manchester City, we’ve priced up the Premier League champions at 1/4 to sign the Croatian in the summer transfer window.
The 21-year-old has long been courted by a number of top European clubs and was the centre of transfer speculation last summer with Chelsea thought to be pushing for the centre-back, ultimately being knocked back and Gvardiol declaring his contentment in Germany.
Gvardiol’s stock rose even more at the World Cup, being considered for the FIFA Young Player Award, ultimately losing out to Argentina’s Enzo Fernandez, but an outstanding campaign saw yet more attentions turn to the youngster, who was arguably the best defender in Qatar.
The fact Gvardiol is left-footed only pushes his asking price up further, with more managers wanting a left-footed centre back to complement their right-footed partner in playing out from the back, and it’s an area in which Gvardiol excels.
Gvardiol’s progressive passing distance/90 last season for RB Leipzig in the Bundesliga was 555.4 yards, considerably better than Nathan Ake who posted 430.4 yards/90 while playing for a team who sees more of the ball.
And not that his long-range distribution will be utilised as much at City should the move go through, he completed 9.0 long range passes last season to Ake’s 3.0, and is also adept at carrying the ball out of defence. His ball-playing is unquestioned, and that’s before getting onto his defensive capabilities.
Manchester City - 1/4
RB Leipzig - 7/2
Real Madrid - 11/1
The Leipzig man also offers versatility. While RB Leipzig typically deployed a flat back four with Gvardiol on the left of a two-man pairing, the Croatian could play on the left of the back three, which appears to be the direction Pep Guardiola’s taking his City side.
Typically going with four at the back at the start of the season, Guardiola moved to the 3-2-2-3 with John Stones stepping into midfield, and Gvardiol would be a substantial improvement on Ake, who had an impressive season in his own right.
At the moment it appears Gvardiol can only be playing at one of two clubs next season, with his large asking price pricing most other clubs out of a potential bidding war.
Fabrizio Romano reported on Twitter that Leipzig will only consider selling to make their prized asset the most expensive defender in history; a fair ask considering that the likes of Frenkie De Jong, Virgil van Dijk and Harry Maguire have all gone for fees around the £80m mark in recent years, and Gvardiol’s contract not expiring until 2027.
There is of course the knock-on effect of Aymeric Laporte’s potential move away, which City appear unwilling to allow unless they know they have a replacement. Tottenham are 2/1 favourites in that market, with Aston Villa 7/2 and Barcelona 11/2.
But should the Spaniard leave the Etihad, it will pave the way for Gvardiol to come to Manchester, where he could easily spend the next decade as the bedrock of City’s defence.
For a team that’s just won the treble, it’s a frightening prospect for the rest of Europe.