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Ake to Man City? The cautionary tale of City's centre-back signings

By Dom Farrell
Nathan Ake

London, July 31: Vincent Kompany joined Manchester City in August 2008 – a little more than a week before the club's trajectory was irreversible changed by Sheikh Mansour's takeover.

The centre-back position, where long-serving club captain Kompany excelled and became a club great, has become a focus for the owner's transfer market millions over the intervening years.

However, there have been more expensive misses than hits, with City's struggles after Kompany's departure last year underlining how subsequent centre-back additions have rarely been anywhere near as successful.

Bournemouth's Nathan Ake is set to be the next man into the building, with City reportedly having agreed a £41million fee for the Netherlands international.

Here, we look at the major centre-back signings made by City during the Abu Dhabi era and how they panned out.

KOLO TOURE (ARSENAL £14M, JULY 2009)

A former title winner with Arsenal, Toure was given the captain's armband by Mark Hughes as club stalwart Richard Dunne was ushered out of the door. The Ivory Coast international struggled for consistency, however, and became a back-up option under Roberto Mancini. Arguably his most significant contribution to City's success was his mere presence encouraging brother Yaya to make the move to Manchester.

JOLEON LESCOTT (EVERTON £22M, AUGUST 2009)

Like Ake now and plenty of others in between, the fee City paid Everton for Lescott brought snorts of derision. But the England international established a rock-solid partnership with Kompany that underpinned the 2011-12 Premier League title triumph. City have never appeared quite so settled at centre-back since their alliance broke down the following year.

JEROME BOATENG (HAMBURG £10.5M, JUNE 2010)

Before going on to become one of Europe's elite central defenders at Bayern Munich, Boateng endured an unhappy year in Manchester. Primarily a right-back at that stage of his career, he found his path to the first team blocked by Micah Richards and Pablo Zabaleta and failed to settle.

STEFAN SAVIC (PARTIZAN £6M, JULY 2011)

Given he was fourth-choice in a season when Kompany and Lescott excelled, it was remarkable how quickly Savic carved out a reputation as an accident-prone liability. A year after signing him, Mancini had lost faith and decided to cut his losses. The steady hand in Atletico Madrid's formidable backline today is a player utterly transformed.

MATIJA NASTASIC (FIORENTINA £12M, AUGUST 2012)

Savic served as a makeweight in the deal to bring Nastasic to the Etihad Stadium. He performed impressively during a largely forgettable 2012-13 campaign, for which Mancini paid with his job. Successor Manuel Pellegrini did not much fancy Nastasic, with injuries further compromising the Serbia international before he moved to current employers Schalke in 2015.

MARTIN DEMICHELIS (ATLETICO MADRID £4.2M, SEPTEMBER 2013)

A loyal lieutenant for Pellegrini, Demichelis left Atletico Madrid without playing a game when the opportunity to reunite with the Chilean coach arose. Long of hair and short of pace, his introduction to the Premier League was fraught and Marcus Rashford skinning him to win a 2016 Manchester derby gave his City career a clanging footnote. However, the Argentina international's experience and steel was vital as the Blues edged out Liverpool in a knife-edge 2013-14 title race.

ELIAQUIM MANGALA (PORTO £42M, AUGUST 2014)

Unperturbed by a massive transfer fee, Mangala was majestic on his debut as 10-man City battled to a 1-1 draw against Chelsea. To be blunt, he never reached those levels again and was rarely close – a slapstick own goal in his next outing at Hull City proving far more representative of what was to come. A popular squad member, Mangala came up short in terms of form, fitness and temperament to unfortunately stand as one of the biggest transfer flops in Premier League history.

NICOLAS OTAMENDI (VALENCIA £32M, AUGUST 2015)

Mangala's struggles sent Pellegrini back into the transfer market for another big-money addition. Otamendi proved scarcely more reliable and the duo generally needed to be watched through one's fingers when paired together. Nevertheless, the Argentina defender's dogged determination saw him become a mainstay during the 100-point season under Pep Guardiola in 2017-18, when he deservedly won a place in the PFA Team of the Year. His error-strewn efforts since have worn increasingly thin.

JOHN STONES (EVERTON £47.5M, AUGUST 2016)

A flagship signing ahead of Guardiola's first season, Stones appears set for the exit door having failed to realise his undoubted potential. He oozed class during the early stages of back-to-back Premier League successes over the previous two seasons, although he tellingly spent large chunks of both run-ins on the sidelines. Injuries have not helped and Guardiola appears to have lost trust in a man who once looked set to be synonymous with his reign.

AYMERIC LAPORTE (ATHLETIC BILBAO £57M, JANUARY 2018)

For now, Laporte remains City's most expensive central defender and the Frenchman has given considerable bang for their buck after the costly folly listed above. As important to City for his precise and varied range of left-footed playmaking from deep, Laporte is Guardiola's defensive rock. When his cruciate knee ligament injury last August followed a failure to replace Kompany, the writing for 2019-20 was on the wall.

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Story first published: Friday, July 31, 2020, 12:30 [IST]
Other articles published on Jul 31, 2020
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