The Understudy: Is Danilo set to cover both full backs at City?

With the recent departures of ALL FOUR Manchester City full backs from last season (Zabaleta, Sagna, Kolarov and Clichy) and with the signings of Walker and Mendy as first choice replacements on right and left respectively, can the incoming Danilo provide cover for both positions as media reports have suggested? Is he fit for purpose?

In a rare case of the media pouring cold water over all things Man City, the panel at ESPN FC (Stevie Nicol et al) were scathing about the Brazilian’s ability (watch here) citing his inability to dislodge Dani Carvajal at Real Madrid and pointing out that sometimes even Nacho was preferred to cover on the right for the Spanish champions.

Carlo Ancelotti had been rather guarded in his comments when asked about the former Porto man back in 2015, leading to suggestions that it was a deal favoured by Florentino Perez rather than himself:

 I know all of the footballers that play in Europe. I know Danilo and nothing more. I like [him] like I like many players…I don’t need to speak with Arbeloa or Carvajal about this topic. They are accustomed to hearing these rumours. But Danilo is a reality that will play for Madrid over the next six seasons.

Less than totally enthusiastic from the outgoing boss!

A recent piece on the website was utterly vituperative when it seemed that Juventus had overtaken City and Chelsea for the player’s signature.

In an ever-so-slightly unbalanced piece, Ben Hayward labelled the Brazilian’s move to Madrid from Porto as an ‘unmitigated disaster’ from the moment Rafa Benitez was pressured by Perez into giving the summer signing his debut.

In his first season, the former Santos right back was blamed for Madrid‘s losses in El Classico and also in damaging defeats to Sevilla, Villareal and Atletico bringing about the end of the former Liverpool manager’s reign.

Hayward opined: By the season’s end, he (Danilo) had played every minute of every single Madrid defeat in 2015-16, a damning indictment on his defensive abilities if ever there was one.

Scapegoating par excellence.

Two damaging own goals within a month that season had led to boos from the Madrid crowd and the heart of complaints against the wing back seemed to be getting caught out of position defensively following one of his foraging forward runs.

The player complained that his errors were being unnecessarily magnified:

“An error, no matter how small, goes viral. A mistake becomes very great even if it is small.”

And yet it was all so different at Porto when the Brazilian made his name and earned himself a move to Spain on a 6 year deal for a fee of 31.5 million euros.

He had been central to Porto‘s progress to the quarter-final of the Champions League that season and had racked up 13 caps for the Brazilian national team to that point, being a particular favourite of manager Dunga.

Madrid have this summer signed 19 year-old Theo Hernandez at left back and Dani Ceballos (20) at centre-mid in a policy aimed at young and mostly Spanish signings – the so-called Made in Spain policy.

The 26 year-old Danilo quickly became surplus to requirements. Zidane, it seems, would rather spend time coaching Spanish youngsters.

Yet, it’s not hard to see why Guardiola is prepared to take a chance on Danilo and it is not for nothing that he was coveted by both Antonio Conte and Massimiliano Allegri. 

Despite his errors in his time at Madrid, he has frightening speed, he passes and crosses well and has energy to burn. He is adept at tackling and intercepting and possesses a thunderbolt shot from range.

Crucially, his versatility is a unique selling point, being able to play competently at left back and also at the base of midfield, a position which will need reinforcing at City with the impending exits of Fernando and Delph.

If Guardiola can add greater defensive discipline to the player’s game then there are high hopes Danilo can resurrect his reputation at City under the Catalan’s tutelage.



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