As news that Ricardo Rodriguez could be available for £18million this summer rippled across the internet, David Alaba’s impending contract extension at Bayern Munich suddenly didn’t seem such a blow to Pep Guardiola’s plans at Manchester City next season, as WhoScored.com explains.
The narrative suggests Guardiola will spend the final few months of his time at Bayern convincing as many of his players to follow him from Munich to Manchester, but the reality of it is, while wholesale changes are expected at the Etihad, not many new faces will actually end up coming from the Bavarian giants.
Since it was announced Guardiola would replace Manuel Pellegrini, City’s performances have plummeted and it’s becoming harder with each passing game to conjure up names of players that are guaranteed a future at City when the Guardiola circus comes to town. It does, however, seem irrational to think replacing Joe Hart, for example, ranks high on his summer priorities, if at all. Hart may not be the all-action goalkeeper his soon-to-be boss currently has at the Allianz Arena, but there are areas in team of far greater concern for the Spaniard; namely in defence.
The heart of the back four will certainly come under review, especially as news flashed that Vincent Kompany had broken down with yet another calf problem on Tuesday night, but Guardiola is also expected to push for a new left-back. Gael Clichy and Aleksandar Kolarov are both useful in their own right, but neither offers any substantial case to suggest they can prove sufficient to the Spaniard’s extremely high demands. And that is what brings us back to Rodriguez.
The 23-year-old has a release clause in his current deal that will become active if Wolfsburg fails to qualify for the Champions League next season. Four teams and five points currently separate Dieter Hecking’s side from the top four and with their focus now primarily on success in the current Champions League campaign, it seems unlikely they will return to UEFA’s premiere tournament unless they defy the odds to win the competition this time around.
Arjen Robben recently promoted Alaba as the best left-back in the world and Rodriguez isn’t far behind him. Crucially, however, Guardiola is rumoured to a fan. City can expect some competition in the form of Real Madrid and Manchester United, who are regularly linked with the Switzerland international, but it shouldn’t deter them from making a move for a player who would not only maintain Kolarov’s dynamic threat going forward, but also preserve some of the defensive qualities Clichy offers.
As Rodriguez’s career has unfolded in Germany, he has become renowned for his breathtaking ability from dead ball situations and threat from wide areas, as Manchester United discovered in the group stages of the Champions League. In fact since August 2013, only one defender has delivered more accurate crosses in the Bundesliga than Rodriguez (60), accentuating his statistically calculated WhoScored.com strength of ‘crossing’.
Not only that, but he has registered at least six more assists than any other defender (15) in the German top-flight and only Paul Verhaegh (15) has scored more goals than the Swiss left-back (13) since the start of the 2013/14 campaign. When you consider no defender in Europe’s top five leagues has completed more dribbles than Rodriguez (141) – 91 more than Kolarov (50) and 95 more than Clichy (46) – in that time, it isn’t surprising that Rodriguez is getting in the positions to threaten the opposition with such regularity, furthering his statistically calculated WhoScored.com strength of ‘dribbling’.
For all of the praise Kolarov receives for his attacking endeavours, he has only managed 12 assists and five goals in the same period, and he has arguably been supplementing a better front line. Not only would Rodriguez be a significant upgrade on Kolarov’s ability going forward, but he would also install a defensive discipline were the Serbian is often found wanting.
Rodriguez ranks in the top-five defenders for tackles and interceptions combined (340) over the past three Bundesliga campaigns and while his positioning can often leave him exposed, it would only improve under the tutelage of Guardiola.
At £18million, Rodriguez could prove to be one of the shrewdest investments available to City this summer. Not only would the two-time Premier League champions be signing a defender that is capable at carrying out his duties at both ends of the pitch, but they’d also be picking up the highest-rated left-back across Europe’s top leagues from the past three seasons (7.73). Bayern aren’t the only German team with top-class players, as Rodriguez demonstrates.