Why did Joao Cancelo leave Manchester City?

The 2023 January transfer window was not short on surprises by any means, although Manchester City’s decision to allow Joao Cancelo to leave certainly raised eyebrows.

The Portuguese full-back had been a mainstay of their side under Pep Guardiola ever since his second season in Manchester following a 2019 transfer from Juventus.

They had great success together too, winning two Premier League titles and a Carabao Cup while also reaching a Champions League final.

However, he has been shipped out to Bayern Munich on an initial loan deal in January after seemingly falling away from the first-team picture at Etihad.

So, what exactly happened there? Well, it’s a combination of merging factors.

Why did Joao Cancello leave Man City?

Ultimately, it all boils down to a breakdown in Cancelo's relationship with Pep Guardiola. He is not the first player to find himself in that situation.

Guardiola is a coach who believes that only change can breed success. Two years ago, when replying to a Rio Ferdinand question about how he plans to keep City at the top , Guardiola replied: “How many Premier League titles did you win? Six? Did you have the same squad in the first one as the last one?

“You have to shake, to move. With the same guys? It’s almost impossible. We change, after defeat and win, we change – me included, we change. At the beginning, you accept things, but when you win, you accept less.”

The truth is, Guardiola has grown increasingly frustrated about the hunger of his Manchester City side and he has not tried to hide it.

Following a 4-2 win over Spurs, he said: “We cannot deny we are far away from the team that we were.

“We play short and we play because our manager told us how to play like this and have to do this, but there is nothing from the stomach and the guts. We were lucky. [We want] Passion, desire, to win from minute one.”

At the time he was not talking about individuals, but it was clear that Guardiola had come to feel the attitude of some of his top stars were waning.

Breakdown in trust

Cancelo saw his relationship with Guardiola deteriorate | OLI SCARFF/GettyImages

Cancelo himself once looked immovable from the Man City side and one of Guardiola’s most trusted on-field lieutenants, but that certainly hasn’t been the case this season.

He has lost his place to teenager Rico Lewis and has not been happy about it. Reports of Cancelo mentally disengaging at City emerged, claiming he stopped concentrating at team meetings.

In short, whatever questions Guardiola asked of his commitment, Cancelo didn’t give the right answers.

Guardiola played the full-back in an unfamiliar right-wing position against Chelsea just three weeks before his exit, and the Portugal star was furious.

“I’m so sorry for Joao, I asked him to play in a position he wasn’t used to,” an apologetic Guardiola said afterwards, but it was no good.

The relationship was not salvageable and, crucially, neither of them even appeared to want to.

Rise of Rico

Rico Lewis has been a revelation for Man City | Michael Regan/GettyImages

Perhaps a key reason why Guardiola didn’t want to repair the relationship with Cancelo was the rise of Rico Lewis. He has broken into the Manchester City team this season and looked a serious talent.

With Kyle Walker also still at the club, the squad was well-served for right-backs and that probably gave Guardiola an opportunity to make an example of a senior player.

By asserting his authority over Cancelo he could reassert his authority over the rest of his squad and give them cause to re-engage mentality to the levels he is demanding. After all, he has shown them what happens if they don’t.

In that sense, the ultimate reason Cancelo left City may just be good management. With Lewis emerging, Cancelo ended up having more value to Guardiola as an example to others than he could offer on the pitch.

Source : 90min