Manchester City close in on Borussia Dortmund defender Manuel Akanji
Manchester City are close to signing the centre-back Manuel Akanji from Borussia Dortmund. Talks are progressing to the final stage after City bid €17m (£14.6m) for the Switzerland international.
Akanji’s arrival is not expected to precipitate the departure of one of City’s four senior central defenders: John Stones, Rúben Dias, Aymeric Laporte and Nathan Aké. Akanji, who joined Dortmund from Basel in 2018, started 25 Bundesliga games last season but has not featured in this campaign.
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 City squad in the summer after a £14.1m 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 the 4-2 home win against Crystal Palace on Saturday.
Guardiola was asked what had surprised him most about the 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’s top scorer with six goals in four games but Guardiola would not hesitate over selecting Álvarez in his stead. “When Erling doesn’t play, Julián is going to play, almost for sure,” he said. “He was involved in two goals last game. Always close to the ball, has the sense to be in the position at the right moment. When he drops [off the front] he has the quality to play.
“I know people are talking a lot about Erling but Julián is an exceptional player. We are delighted. All of us are impressed with the guy, for his pace, his sense of goal, work ethic. For many things.”
Guardiola would not be drawn on whether Haaland will start when Nottingham Forest visit on Wednesday. “You will see,” he said.
Should Haaland be rested, Guardiola will not inform him why. “No, I’m not going to explain. I don’t explain the reason for my decisions, because I will not [always] convince them. Some players understand and some never will understand me,” he said.
“I do it for the best for the team, to win the games, for many reasons. I’m the manager and I decide that and I am being paid for that, and they have to accept my decisions.”
Tuesday marks the seven-year anniversary of Kevin De Bruyne’s arrival at City. The Belgium midfielder has been an unqualified success but his signing was questioned at the time by some because of an unsuccessful period at Chelsea.
Guardiola said: “Everyone has his opinion and you have to make sense of it. The haters are open to do it [criticise]. How Kevin plays, his incredible talent, his work ethic, his commitment, he is mates with everyone. These type of players: you have to watch what they do.”