Manchester City are set to sign centre-back Manuel Akanji from Borussia Dortmund. Talks are progressing to the final stage after City offered €17m (£14.6m) for the Switzerland international.
Akanji’s arrival should not precipitate the departure of one of City’s four senior centre-backs: John Stones, Rúben Dias, Aymeric Laporte and Nathan Aké. Akanji, who joined Dortmund from Basel in 2018, started 25 Bundesliga games last season but has not featured in this campaign.
Pep Guardiola set out to try and bolster his defensive options a day when he admitted to being surprised at the quality of one of his forward signings. The manager says Julián Álvarez is an ideal replacement if Erling Haaland is rested.
Álvarez joined the champions’ side in the summer after a £14.1million move from River Plate was agreed in January. The 22-year-old has made an impact in his four substitute appearances, scoring against Liverpool in the Community Shield and being involved in two of Haaland’s goals in Saturday’s 4-2 home win over Crystal Palace.
Guardiola was asked what surprised the Argentine striker the most. “I knew him a little, apart from TV, clips, games at River Plate; I was surprised how good he is,” he said. “He is so humble, always positive. In each training, he gives everything. I like this type of player.”
Haaland is the Premier League’s top scorer with six goals in four games, but Guardiola wouldn’t hesitate to select Álvarez instead. “When Erling is not playing, Julián will play, almost for sure,” he said. “He was involved in two goals in the last game. Always close to the ball, has a sense of being in position at the right time. When he falls [off the front] he has the quality to play.
“I know people talk a lot about Erling but Julián is an exceptional player. We are delighted. We are all impressed with the guy, for his pace, his sense of goal, his work ethic. For many things.
Guardiola is said to be undecided whether Haaland will start when Nottingham Forest visit on Wednesday. “You’ll see,” he said.
Tuesday marks the seventh anniversary of Kevin De Bruyne’s arrival at City. The Belgian midfielder was an unqualified success, but his signing was questioned at the time by some due to an unsuccessful spell at Chelsea.
Guardiola said: “Everyone has their opinion and you have to make sense of it. The haters are open to doing that. [criticise]. How Kevin plays, his incredible talent, his work ethic, his commitment, he’s friends with everyone. This type of players: you have to watch what they do.
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