When Pep Guardiola decided to trade Danilo for Joao Cancelo in the summer of 2019, he did not envision it was going to produce such an amazing outcome for Manchester City. The Portuguese was expected to play a backup role to first-choice right-back Kyle Walker and hope to step in when the latter's performance wanes.
But Walker remained so good, Cancelo could hardly get minutes on the pitch in the position. He spent so much time on the bench early on that his move to the Etihad Stadium was beginning to look like a big mistake. Consequently, speculations began to surface concerning his next move. The player was reported to be unhappy with his situation and open to a move elsewhere.
However, things began to change as he got a look in at the left-back position owing to Benjamin Mendy’s absence. Once given a chance, the Portuguese played like a man on a mission to not only claim the position, but also convince the manager he deserved to become a regular in the team.
Guardiola could not argue with the facts as his displays showed he was consistently one of the best performers in the team. The 26-year-old does not only carry out his duty at the back, he excels going forward. He would often provide extra cover in the midfield and also join in the attack.
Functioning as one of the best players in the league last term, he was one of the key reasons City recovered from a slow start to win the title. He has remained consistent over time as well.
With his recent display in the Champions League, Cancelo continues to show why he is one of the best signings the club has ever made.
The Portuguese was on the end of a sumptuous Phil Foden pass to provide a composed finish that can make any striker green with envy.
But Walker will not stand by and watch his supposed heir enjoy the limelight alone. The Englishman also netted a goal of his own to underline why he remains first choice at right-back.
When it comes to speed, agility and strength, he is second to none. Not only in the team, even in the whole of the division. How then do you drop such a player as a manager? Except that Guardiola doesn’t need to.
With Cancelo on the other side, both players can show the stuff they are made of. Their performance in Belgium perfectly summarises just how vital they have become to the team.
They not only do a good job at the back but also contribute to the team’s offensive play. Once in a while they even take matters into their own hands to settle games. What else could a manager ask for?
How things change. Walker and Cancelo have gone from competing for the same position to now competing on goalscoring.
That can only propel Man City to more success.