Joao Cancelo’s time at Manchester City has seen many phases. He went from struggling to break into the team to being the first name on the team sheet. From being second choice at right-back to contender for Manchester City’s Player of the Season. From hero to villain and back to the starting point.
But perhaps this has been his toughest time at the club since overcoming the initial roadblocks. Making just four starts in the last 11 matches for City shows how things had changed for the full-back. Unlike some players that don’t mind being second or third choice, the Portuguese defender wants much more.
Or maybe having tasted regular first team football for the last couple of years he’s not willing to revert back to a position he once occupied. That led to him becoming a negative influence on the team. Pep Guardiola is not a manager that tolerates insubordination.
His recent posts on social media show a player fighting a battle for relevance. He feels he is being targeted.
“Don’t let anyone dim your shine,” Cancelo posted on Instagram in Portuguese.
That is definitely pointing the finger. But with a manager like Guardiola, player selection usually depends on performance during games and in training. That’s almost a necessity in a team with tough competition for places.
The Catalan boss cannot resort to the use of sentiments or favouritism in the choice of players. That’s because the team itself has to be at the top of it’s game to maintain its position in the Premier League.
With other clubs looking to overtake City at the slightest opportunity, Guardiola cannot take any chances. His team has to eliminate every weakness and be the best it can be at every point in time. That’s the only way to beat the opposition and stay ahead of the competition.
So any player not measuring up at any point can find his place put up for grabs.
Despite starting the season in good form, Cancelo has been found wanting on several occasions as the season has progressed. From gifting Mohamed Salah a goal as the last man standing in the Blues’ defence when City faced Liverpool at Anfield, to picking up and unnecessary red card that put the team under pressure against Fulham at the Etihad Stadium, his manager has been taken notes.
In the last few games both Aymeric Laporte and Nathan Ake has played in cancelas position and done well. They have not given the manager any reason to think twice about playing them in the position again. The more the manager found suitable options to play in the position while new boy Rico Lewis also occupied the right side alongside Kyle Walker, the more Cancelo found himself relegated to the background.
Guardiola is not a manager given to sentiments. He will have to see a real improvement on the pitch before he reintegrates a player back into his starting XI.
So it was up to Cancelo to put in the work necessary to find his way back into regular football at the Etihad Stadium. But with news now emerging of an expected loan move to Bayern Munich for the remainder of the campaign, it appears their relationship has broken down beyond repair.
Six months can be a long time to bury the hatchet and get back on good terms. But if the player chooses the path of bitterness and pointing the finger rather than looking inward for a solution to his problem, this may just be the beginning of the end for him as a City player.