Pep's fullback fetish: 5 reasons why spending so much on fullbacks could backfire
On 22 July 2002, Rio Ferdinand joined Manchester United from Leeds United for £30 million. The deal saw him become the world’s most expensive defender in history at the time, a distinction he would continue to keep for the next 12 years. By the time he left Manchester United with 6 PL titles and 1 CL trophy, he had made his name as one of England’s greatest ever players.
When a new record for world’s most expensive defender was set on July 14, 2017, it was for a 27-year-old English player with 27 international caps. With all due respect to his abilities, Kyle Walker isn’t one of the best defenders in the world, nor is he one of the greatest British players of all time. Maybe Guardiola himself felt a sense of discomfort about Walker holding the world’s most expensive defender tag; and he promptly broke his own record 10 days later, splashing £52 million on Benjamin Mendy from Monaco.
The arrival of Danilo from Real Madrid would then take Manchester City’s outlay on fullbacks alone to around £130 million. Moving on from a generation where a fullback was either a failed centre back or a failed winger (Maradona recently said a fullback “touches the ball 3 times and makes 8 fouls per game”), it is refreshing to see the importance of the position being revitalized in modern football – yet spending so much on fullbacks in a single transfer window borders close to the insane.
Here is why Pep’s fullback fetish could come back to haunt him in the years to come.
#1 High transfer fees create burden on the player
Eliaquim Mangala. Claudio Bravo. John Stones. Nicolas Otamendi. While the latter two haven’t disappointed as much as the former, it is high time Manchester City learn a couple of lessons. One, the type of coaches they appoint and the brand of football they aspire to play, they are always going to concede a few goals – changing personnel every year is not the solution to that. Two, even if they categorically deny it, the size of a player’s transfer fee puts an additional spotlight on him; and defence is one area of the pitch where it would help to be relieved of that scrutiny.
For no fault of his own, Kyle Walker’s limitations are being discussed in multiple analyses; he is being singled out as the poster boy for the inflation that prevails in modern football economy. Unlike many other recruits from foreign shores, Benjamin Mendy will begin to be evaluated minutes rather than months into his City career, though he had absolutely no say on how much he cost.
Guardiola hasn’t exactly done his new recruits a favour by spending so much on them.