Jamie Jackson and Fabrizio Romano
Manchester City is close to signing Borussia Dortmund center-back Manuel Akanji. The talks have reached the final stage after City bid €17 million for the Switzerland international.
The arrival of Akanji is unlikely to result in the departure of one of the City’s four senior central defenders: John Stones, Ruben Dias, Aymeric Laporte, or Nathan Aké. Akanji, who joined Dortmund from Basel in 2018, appeared in 25 Bundesliga games last season but is yet to appear this season.
Pep Guardiola set about trying to strengthen his defensive options on a day when he admitted surprise at how good one of his forward signings is proving. The manager said Julián Álvarez was an ideal replacement should Erling Haaland be rested.
Álvarez joined the champions’ squad in the summer after a €16.5m transfer from River Plate was agreed in January. The 22-year-old has made an impact in his four substitute appearances, scoring against Liverpool in the Community Shield and being involved in two of Haaland’s goals in Saturday’s 4-2 home win over Crystal Palace.
Guardiola was asked what had surprised them most about Argentina forward.
“I knew him a little bit, off TV, clips, games in River Plate; I was surprised at how good he is,” he said. “He is so humble, always positive. Every training session he gives everything. I like this type of player.”
Haaland is the Premier League top scorer with six goals in four matches but Guardiola would not hesitate over selecting Álvarez in his stead.
“When Erling is out, Julián will very certainly play,” he stated. “He assisted on two goals previous game.” Always near to the ball and has the sense to be in the right place at the right time. He has the ability to play when he lowers [off the front].
“I know everyone is raving about Erling, but Julián is a terrific player.” We are overjoyed. We’re all amazed by the guy’s pace, sense of aim, and work ethic. For a variety of reasons.”
Guardiola refused to comment on whether Haaland will start against Nottingham Forest on Wednesday.
“You will see,” he said.
Kevin De Bruyne joined Manchester City seven years ago on Tuesday. The Belgian midfielder has been a resounding success, but his signing was questioned at the time by some due to a disappointing spell at Chelsea.
“Everyone has an opinion, and you have to make sense of it,” Guardiola added. The detractors are ready to criticize. Kevin plays with everyone because of his great talent, work ethic, and commitment. You have to keep an eye on these types of players.”