Joao Cancelo: Trying to Figure Out Why the Full Back Cannot Get a Game for Manchester City

​Having secured a second consecutive Premier League title in 2018/19, Manchester City had a quiet summer transfer window. Pep Guardiola appeared happy with the squad that had delivered the domestic treble.

Yet the club did make one high-profile signing. Allowing Danilo to leave as part of the deal, City signed right back Joao Cancelo from Juventus. An intriguing addition, one that looked to signal that Kyle Walker could be dropped to the bench this season.

Kyle Walker

Then again, maybe not. 

Cancelo has failed to start any of City's last six games, with Walker getting the nod on each occasion. When City were beaten 3-2 by Norwich last weekend, and Walker had a woeful evening, it appeared almost certain that Cancelo would come in for the midweek Champions League game against Shakhtar Donetsk. 

Then again, maybe not.

Instead, Walker started once more, with Cancelo only coming off the bench in the final ten minutes. It seemed a token gesture from Guardiola with City already 3-0 up. 

Does he not trust Cancelo? Well, he wouldn't be the first manager to have that issue with the Portuguese full back.

Let's go back a year.

Cancelo joined Juventus in 2018, and immediately made a positive impression. Having previously been a winger, his attacking ability was there for all to see. Playing in a Juventus side that can often look effective yet rigid and uninspiring, he was a breath of fresh air down the right flank.

Yet he picked up a knee injury in December 2018, ruling him out for a month. When he returned, the momentum that he had built up in his opening months at the club had been lost. Moreover, it seemed that manager Massimiliano Allegri was starting to lose faith in him. 

Massimiliano Allegri

When Juventus faced Atletico Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League last 16 tie in February, Cancelo was left on the bench. The same thing happened when Ajax visited Turin two months later. Both times Allegri preferred the more defensive-minded Mattia De Sciglio. The warning signs were there for Cancelo - his time at Juventus was coming to an end.

Allegri departed in the summer, and was replaced by Maurizio Sarri. With a new manager at the helm, this offered hope of a fresh start for Cancelo.

Then again, maybe not.


Sarri did not seem convinced by Cancelo from the off, which meant that he was sent on his way to the Premier League.

There may be some people reading this questioning just how good Cancelo really is. If multiple managers have been unsure about him, why should they be any different? 

A valid point, yet his résumé is an impressive one to say the least.

This is a player who has won league titles in Portugal and Italy. He has 16 caps for Portugal, and was part of the squad that won the inaugural UEFA Nations League this summer. All of this having only turned 25 back in May.

Cancelo is not the finished article yet, but Guardiola has a proven track record of turning good players into great ones. The latest example of this is Raheem Sterling, who has gone from a player who looked hesitant in front of goal to a goal machine for both club and country. Why can he not smooth off the rough edges to Cancelo's game and make him the world-class full back that he has the potential to be?


City have well-documented problems in defence. Vincent Kompany was allowed to leave in the summer, whilst Aymeric Laporte and John Stones have both picked up injuries recently. Guardiola will have to consider his options as to who can fill the void in this position, with Walker coming in as a makeshift centre back being one of them.

This would open up an opportunity for Cancelo. After a difficult 2019 for the full back, City fans may be wondering what all the fuss was about when he joined last month. They might get to find out very soon.

Source : 90min