When a player as good and important as Joao Cancelo leaves a team fighting for titles in the middle of the season, it’s usually quite surprising. So surprising that it could lead to speculations regarding the reason for the departure. In trying to explain the unexpected turn of events, the main narrative was that the Portuguese defender fell out with his manager and became a negative influence on the team.
Cutting such a player loose is usually the right thing to do at a time like that and so many Manchester City faithful welcomed the move as one geared towards sanitising the team. Anything short of that did not make any sense as no team should be letting such a key player leave over frivolous reasons.
The manner of the departure was quite dramatic with both parties reaching the decision to part ways so abruptly. Even more surprising was the fact that the player was allowed to join Bayern Munich not just on loan, but the German side had an option to buy the full-back for around £61m in the summer.
That meant City were ultimately resigned to losing such a key player to a European rival with little or no effort on their part to make the deal happen. The Bavarians could hardly believe their luck. It’s like the classic case of handing over your weapon to your opponent in a fight.
The dust has now settled and the truth is finally out. At least, from the player’s perspective. The 28-year-old has revealed in an interview that the narrative regarding his exit from the Etihad Stadium was false.
Speaking with O Jogo, the Portugal international stated: “As I already said, he (Guardiola) found a way to play, after the World Cup, in which he started playing with a full-back more inside, where I also played, and he liked what he saw with Rico and Nathan. I respected his decision because I have to and this is a team of great footballers.
“But I think a player is always a bit selfish. Any player wants to feel important, wants to play and anyone who says otherwise is lying. A competitive player, like me, who aspires to win titles, just wants to play. It’s like Pep said, I need to play to be happy.
“It’s not a question of devaluing my teammates, because others are on the bench to play. But I thought I deserved to play and he didn’t.”
Cancelo then revealed exactly how things transpired. Turns out it was a decision resulted from mutual respect. Both player and manager wanted the best for each other and thought an amicable separation was the best solution.
”So we talked, it was a conversation, not a discussion, and we decided that the best thing would be for me to leave this market. An opportunity I couldn’t refuse. But I’m very grateful to City and the fans," - said Cancelo.
It was up to City to make it clear to the player that he will have to settle for less playing time. With several years left on his contract, he had no other option but to readjust, at least for the remainder of the campaign.
But Guardiola clearly wanted the player to follow his heart and move on, if that made him happy. The Catalan manager has been steadfast in his belief that a player was free to leave at any point they chose, if that made them happy. Cancelo simply took full advantage of that and is not to blame.