It’s a brand new year, which means it’s a brand new transfer window…
Fabrizio Romano has bid farewell to his family, as throughout the whole month he’s going to be on “rise and grind” mode, farming sweet, sweet social media interactions. Finally, at long last, he can stop tweeting random Opta stats and press conference quotes and he can get back to what he lives for.
With the rumour mill well and truly churning, there’s plenty of chatter about Manchester City.
There’s not really much chatter about an incoming name to join up with the first-team squad yet. However, there’s a name that’s been confirmed to be signing as an official City player and will probably be announced shortly, if not already by the time this article is released.
Claudio Echeverri is the latest Argentine wonderkid to come through the ranks at River Plate, following in the footsteps of Enzo Fernandez and our very own Sergio Aguero regen, Julian Alvarez.
As a player who can play across the three positions in behind the striker, but predominantly in the number 10 role, he’s been highly rated by scouts, particularly those who are employed by Football Manager (and are therefore never wrong), but particularly came to prominence during the Under-17s World Cup in November when he tore Brazil apart, scoring a hat-trick in the process. He also scored two more and assisted another across the rest of the competition, captaining the side throughout.
Manchester City are reportedly about to pay his £22 million release clause with the intention of loaning him back to River Plate for the next 12 months, where he can hopefully get a bit more first-team football under his belt than he would in England or elsewhere in Europe.
However, given his recent interview after the Argentinian Super Cup, where he was given his first professional start against Rosario Central, the fans may not be too keen on the idea…
Echeverri was speaking after the match and was asked about his plans for the future, particularly whether he would sign a new deal with River Plate. He was admittedly quite up front about things, saying that he would not be signing a new deal with the club, although this did immediately enrage the fans.
Football fans, being the reasonable bunch that they generally are, apparently now want him to rot on the bench or in the youth teams until he’s gone if he has such little intent of staying at River.
It’s also understood that management didn’t take too kindly to the interview either (although it’s hard to see how pocketing £22 million for a 17-year-old with one year left on his deal and one professional start under his belt doesn’t soften the blow for them), so just how seriously Echeverri’s game time will be taken back in Argentina remains to be seen.
Julian Alvarez was the undisputed started for River and possibly their most important player, so keeping him there for development was a no brainer. This is not the case for Echeverri, however, so it’s difficult to predict whether a loan back would be as fruitful as it was for Alvarez. Time will tell, however.
Speaking of time, this is what Football Manager expect him to be like at 21 years old:
Dribbling, First Touch, Technique, Flair, Determination, he’s got it all. No need to think any further about this – this is ironclad proof that Echeverri is a star in the making. Get that contract signed, Claudio.
So while Echeverri is one for the future, he’s not an immediate first team signing. The lack of first teamers being linked with us currently is mainly due to the near-certainty that Kalvin Phillips will be looking to find somewhere to spend his Saturday afternoons where he might actually be in danger of kicking a football, rather than warming up the nice padded seats on Manchester City’s bench.
According to Paul Hirst of The Times, talks are currently underway between Manchester City and Juventus, kings of the loan deal, for a deal to be struck for Kalvin Phillips to join the European Super League giants, well, on loan.
Whether there will be an option to make the deal permanent involved, I suspect there will be, it’ll be entirely irrelevant as there’s approximately zero chance that Juventus will activate it unless we settle for around £10-15 million. The Italians aren’t exactly flush with cash right now, particularly while their finances are being scrutinised almost as much as ours.
The writing has been on the wall for Kalvin Phillips in pretty much the whole of 2023 to be honest. Some of it isn’t really his fault, particularly the fact that Rodri is literally Busquets 2.0 and cannot be displaced by anybody in the world, however Rodri played a ridiculous amount of football last season, making 56 appearances in all competitions and totalling 4,476 minutes of football, coming to just under an average of 80 minutes per game across all of his appearances.
It’s hard to believe that Pep didn’t want to rotate Rodri, and had he felt that there was somebody adequate available to do so he’d surely have done it. Yet Phillips never quite fit the bill at City. There are some rumours that the coaching staff realised this very early on in training over the summer that he joined but regardless, over the rest of the 2022/23 season things wouldn’t go brilliantly for Phillips.
First he got himself a serious shoulder injury which kept him out of the squad, only for him to return just before the World Cup. He was taken to the competition by Southgate but ultimately played zero minutes in the competition. This would probably have something to do with his application in training, as he then returned to the City squad after the tournament overweight, which Pep made sure everybody knew about.
He soon shook off his obesity, earning himself a start against Nathan Jones’ Southampton in the Carabao, a game which we infamously lost. He would go on to make only three more starts for City that season, two of which coming once the league was already wrapped up and the rubbers were about as dead as you could possibly get. It’s not what he, or anybody, had envisioned when he signed for the club.
Despite this, he came back over the summer with renewed vigour. City were very keen to get rid of him and cut their losses, but Phillips was pretty short of suitors and was making it very clear he had every intention of staying and fighting for his place at the club. Admirable, but mistaken.
He’s been given his chance during Rodri’s suspension earlier this season and, whilst he wasn’t exactly the cause of our dropped points, it’s fair to say that on the whole when you watch him, there’s a lot of work to be done. His physicality is nowhere near the level required to play for a team with the intensity of City, and there’s just no way he’s going to reach the required level if he’s only playing the odd game every few months.
He seems a lovely bloke, something which has encapsulated Pep’s responses when asked for his thoughts on Phillips – rather than talk about his footballing ability and have to say something mean, he instead focuses on how nice Phillips is and how everybody likes him. It’s a polite way of saying he’s useless.
He’s been given his make-a-wish penalty against Red Star in the latest dead rubber game he started, it seems a fitting way for him to bow out. It’s just a transfer that hasn’t worked out for either party, despite looking like a brilliant fit on paper. Nobody envisaged him only played 911 minutes over 18 months, even with Rodri being as brilliant as he is.
He’s got the big five trophy winner’s medals in his cabinet, if he wants to look back on this time of his life and feel like he made a genuine difference in winning any of them, then who are we to burst his bubble?
Somebody who will make a genuine difference, however, is Kevin De Bruyne, who made his triumphant return to the Manchester City bench against Sheffield United.
It would have been nice to see him get a few minutes, however I’ll also happily see Kev wrapped in cotton wool until February if it means he’ll be fit for the rest of the season. We’ve already seen what happens when he’s rushed back and the surgery he’s had on his hamstring could (whisper it quietly) mean the beginning of his physical decline, or at least certainly change some of that power we’ve seen come from him in the middle of things.
It is quite funny that, despite all of the doom and gloom (most of it from my Twitter account) and the pessimism about our chances of going on to win anything this season (see also my Twitter account), our competition has, at the time of writing (watching Arsenal slump to another defeat, this time at the hands of Fulham), only managed to gain a two point advantage over City whilst our form has been at its worst since Pep’s first season at the club.
Now Erling Haaland and Kevin De Bruyne are both on the way back to the team and we’re not far from City’s usual crunch point of the season, it’s hard to see any other way that this season ends. Liverpool are always dangerous, however they’re about to lose Mohamed Salah and Wataru Endo for a few weeks, which could prove costly. If we put together a run of eight or nine games won on the spin, with the way the clubs around us are struggling to do just that, we win the title at a canter.
Having De Bruyne back in the side, even with the loss of John Stones, will be a genuine game changer. We’ve lacked a bit of creativity in the side in the last couple of months, certainly more so than in previous seasons, and that’s what Kev’ provides in spades. He’s also a match winner who can pull special moments out from nowhere.
Our season begins now…
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