The future of João Cancelo appears to lie away from the Premier League after Manchester City and Bayern Munich finalised a loan move which will see the defender leave the Etihad Stadium.
Bayern have completed a six-month loan deal and have the option to trigger Cancelo’s release clause of £61.6m ($76.3m) in the summer.
Cancelo was integral to City claiming back-to-back league titles in the last two seasons under Pep Guardiola, but has rapidly fallen out of favour since his return from the World Cup.
The departure of the Portuguese full-back comes after the relationship between player and manager reportedly deteriorated. After he experimented with Cancelo as a right midfielder at Chelsea earlier in January, Guardiola publicly apologised in his post-match press conference having scrapped the idea and substituted Cancelo at half-time.
In the weeks since, Cancelo has fallen behind Nathan Aké and teenager Rico Lewis in Guardiola’s plans and has not featured in their last two league matches.
It is less than a year since Cancelo signed a new five-year contract with City, reward for a superb 2021-22 season which saw him lead the team’s build-up phase.
No defender made more pass attempts than Cancelo last season with 3,155, topping the charts with 55 defensive-line breaking passes – 18 more than Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold in second and far higher than the average of 4.9 among defenders to have played 1,200 minutes or more.
By the same criteria, Cancelo led all City players in the number of targets (2,837) but is second to Aymeric Laporte in received passes per-90 – 70.4 to 71.9 – while Rodri is third at 69.0. With that possession, he ranked tied-4th with Romain Saiss for line-breaking passes per-90 with 7.2 which was behind Thiago Silva’s league-leading 12.2 but ahead of the average among defenders of 3.6.
How that ties in with Cancelo being told his agent can pursue interest from other clubs lies in matters both in and out of his control. Portuguese media reported that Cancelo had been left deeply frustrated at not getting more minutes at the World Cup in Qatar, where Portugal were knocked out by Morocco in the quarter finals.
His first game back for City in the Premier League was the match at Chelsea where he was pulled at half-time along with Kyle Walker, as City went on to win 1-0, with reports Cancelo needed to be calmed down by teammates in the dressing room.
He played the full match in the Manchester derby the next week but has not featured since. Things have not been easy for Guardiola as a result, with Phil Foden, Riyad Mahrez and Jack Grealish all playing in an unconventional wing-back style from the Chelsea match to now.
But Guardiola’s mind may be at peace with Cancelo leaving due to the performances of 18-year-old Rico Lewis who has created 6 chances this season in 386 minutes of action, a far better rate than the 11 Cancelo has mustered in 1,421.
Cancelo’s passing has regressed from the levels of last season, but he still ranks 8th in passes completed per-90 among 135 defenders (min. 300 minutes played) at 64.4. That is above the average of 41.4 but behind five City teammates who all claim top 5 spots; Kyle Walker, 81.0; Nathan Aké, 77.4; Ruben Dias, 76.9; Manuel Akanji 69.8; John Stones, 68.1. Rico Lewis is further back and ranked 15th with 59.7.
The role in building up attacking play has seemingly been switched to Walker, who leads City in targets per-90 at 77.7 ahead of Cancelo in 5th at 68.7 – below his 2021-22 figure of 73.7.
With no replacement in line for Cancelo in the transfer window, City are now relying on Lewis and Aké to be options at full-back when their place in the team was not as close to being as well-established as Cancelo’s last summer.
Our new number 2️⃣2️⃣ ????⚪#MiaSanMia #ServusJoão pic.twitter.com/02v3aiJtKC
— FC Bayern Munich (@FCBayernEN) January 31, 2023