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Explaining Man City's leftfield signings of former academy prospect Angelino and veteran goalkeeper Riesgo

12:08 AM IST 04/07/19
Riesgo Angelino
The Premier League champions' transfer dealings may not make much sense at first glance but both players will have a role in the squad next season

There are two tiers to Manchester City's transfer dealings this summer; the Premier League champions could break their club record fee twice in quick succession on two fundamental reinforcements, at the same time as snapping up two players that, on the face of it, do not seem to have a role in the first team at all.

City's record signing is Riyad Mahrez, who cost £60 million last summer, but they are on the verge of announcing Rodri from Atletico Madrid in a £63m deal, having persuaded the Sergio Busquets-like defensive midfielder to move to the Etihad Stadium and provide cover for - and eventually replace - Fernandinho.

Pep Guardiola has also identified Leicester City's Harry Maguire as the main man to strengthen City's defence following the exit of Vincent Kompany. The Blues do not want to pay Leicester's asking price more than £75m, but the eventual fee (if there is to be one) could eclipse the £63m spent on Rodri.

They could also spend north of £50m on Juventus' Joao Cancelo, providing they can offset that fee by moving on Danilo, who wants first-team football but, so far, has not found too many clubs who can provide it.

Those three players will have a clear role in the first team next season and in the years to come, if they arrive, but the motive behind City's other transfer dealings are less obvious.

City have also brought in 22-year-old left-back Angelino, who left the club for PSV just 12 months ago.

The Spaniard joined City's academy in 2013 and was loaned to clubs across the world before being sold for around €5m last July.

He had been deemed surplus to requirements even as City battled with a left-back dilemma in the past two summers, but a continued shortage of options in that area has finally opened the door to the first team.

Oleksandr Zinchenko, who has signed a new contract and been given the No.11 shirt, will likely go into next season as first choice, with Benjamin Mendy continuing his recovery from his latest knee problems; he underwent an arthroscopy procedure in May.

And with doubts around Mendy's fitness both in the short and long-term, City had long decided that they need cover. They had initially planned a big-money move for Leicester's Ben Chilwell, but pulled the plug at the end of April partly because they had decided to use the money elsewhere and partly because they knew they would not be able to sell Mendy.

So Angelino, who had a buy-back clause of just €12m in his PSV transfer (although City sources claim the move will cost as little as €6m) represents a cut-price option that makes a lot of sense.

For one thing, his time at the club as a teenager means he can be registered as a homegrown player.

But City are also set to lose essentially all of their other emergency left-back options. Danilo had been called upon to play there at times but he looks set to leave, while Fabian Delph, who stood in brilliantly in the 2017-18 season but struggled in 2018-19, has already cleared out his locker at the Etihad Stadium.

And with City likely to go into next season with three senior centre-backs - Aymeric Laporte, John Stones and either Maguire or Nicolas Otamendi (the Argentine may be persuaded to stay if Maguire, or another centre-back, is not signed) - they would be less inclined to move Laporte from his favoured central position out to the left, which would have been more likely if Zinchenko were to get injured or banned while Mendy is on the sidelines.

It is not impossible that Laporte could play left-back next season - Guardiola has deployed him there in big games against Liverpool and could do so again - but the Catalan would not want to use last season's most reliable defender out of position for prolonged periods.

Reports that Paris Saint-Germain had been ready to pay €25m to sign Angelino from PSV had led many to think that City could re-sign him and immediately sell him on for profit, but instead he will be used as first-team cover and there is a good chance he will be called upon quite often next season.

That could also be the case for Asier Riesgo, a 35-year-old goalkeeper who has played a largely back-up role throughout his career and should be announced the club in the near future.

He had a trial at Tottenham in 2009 after losing his spot at Real Sociedad to Claudio Bravo, and then spent five years as a squad player at Osasuna, before moving to Eibar in 2015.

City’s somewhat surprising decision to sign the veteran is based largely on their desire to send Aro Muric on loan.

Muric, 20, found himself as Ederson’s understudy last season after Claudio Bravo sustained a serious Achilles injury that kept him out for essentially the whole campaign.

Muric had just gone on loan to NAC Breda, where he was set for a season of first-team football. but was swiftly recalled to fill Bravo’s place on the bench, save for Carabao Cup matches.

The big Kosovan played an important role in getting City to the Carabao Cup final - although Ederson played at Wembley - and coaches see him as a genuine option to contend for a first-team role in the future.

But they believe he still needs a year of regular football elsewhere to aid his development, because he was essentially robbed of that in 2018-19 due to Bravo’s injury.

With Muric out on loan, most likely to Nottingham Forest, City do not want to be caught short again if Bravo or Ederson get injured.

Riesgo, which translates to English as ‘Risk’, is seen as a safe pair of hands.

He has been recommended by goalkeeper coach Xabier Mancisidor and scout Cervantes, who had a distinguished career in Spain between 1976 and 1992.

Riesgo and Bravo battled for the No.1 spot at Real Sociedad and will now vie for the No.2 spot at City. It is possible that both will step aside in 2020, however; Bravo’s contract expires at the end of next season, while Riesgo is being lined up for a coaching role in City’s academy.

The Basque keeper has been tempted to move to Manchester by a competitive salary and the opportunity for his young family to study in England and learn English - which are chief among the reasons why Bravo has been so keen to see out his contract at the Etihad Stadium, despite his problems with form and fitness in the past three seasons.