Trimming the tallest flowers can help the ones below to grow. They might get even taller.
Sometimes moving on can be healthy and Manchester City have made an art of it. Under Pep Guardiola, a summer hasn’t gone by without at least one club icon being moved on. Joe Hart, Pablo Zabaleta, Yaya Toure, Vincent Kompany, David Silva, Sergio Aguero and Fernandinho have all left since 2016.
The trend continued this summer but unlike those who left before him, Ilkay Gundogan was nowhere near past his peak and City were desperate to keep him. In fact, Gundogan might still be playing the best football of his career and had just played a crucial role in a treble-winning side. A side he captained no less.
It’s not clear yet just how much of an impact Gundogan’s exit will have but it’s hard to see it not being significant, at least in the opening stages of the season while the Blues get used to life without him. Mateo Kovacic has been signed as his replacement and though he is cut from a similar cloth with how he moves on the ball and his aggression to win it back, the Croatian is nowhere near as decisive in the attacking third and hasn’t got the benefit of being engrained in Guardiola’s system for seven years.
But Gundogan hasn’t been the only big departure in the window. Though not as integral to the side, Riyad Mahrez has still played a huge role in City’s success since he joined in 2018. The Algerian has been one of City’s most consistent and reliable goal threats, finishing his tenure with 78 goals and 59 assists in 236 appearances, and was the perfect attacking outlet for Guardiola’s system.
The fact he flourished in the team for so long despite being one of the very few players only capable of playing one position says a lot. Mahrez may not feel like a great loss as Bernardo Silva was usually preferred to him in the biggest games but he was so often the creative spark to break down tight games. He will be missed without question.
That’s already two vital players Guardiola admitted he would have liked to have kept gone, so to lose a third would have been a disaster.
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