Despite having no manager in place, Manchester City have made their first signing of the summer. Spanish international winger Jesus Navas will don the sky blue strip next season, after a reported transfer fee of £17m was agreed between the Mancunians and the Andalusians. You can only speculate that the man tipped to take the hot-seat, Manuel Pellegrini, has had some influence on the deal.
Having been at Sevilla for the entirety of his footballing life, Navas may not be as box office a name as some of the Spaniard’s who ply their trade at Barcelona and Real Madrid. But that doesn’t mean Manchester City fans should be any less excited about his arrival. For Navas is one exhilarating player.
With this in mind, let’s take a look at what the Spanish winger will bring to Pellegrini’s side.
Primarily, he will give them pace, trickery and a direct threat. And in doing so, he will give City an attacking dimension that they were in short supply of last year.
If there was standout deficiency in the teams attacking play under Mancini, then it was lack of width. Mancini usually operated with the likes of Samir Nasri and David Silva in wide areas, who are not wingers by right. They are more suited to attacking central midfielder roles, but were tasked with cutting in and finding pockets of space in the inside channels.
Whilst initially effective (especially in the early days of the 2011/12 season) teams soon became wise to it, packing the middle of the pitch and making things congested. As such, City’s more creative players had limited space to work within and with Mancini reluctant to use wide men like Scott Sinclair and Adam Johnson during his tenure, City toiled frequently against a compact defense.
Genuine width is the best way to break through tight knit opposition and this is exactly what Navas will give them.
In his time at Sevilla, he operated almost exclusively on the right-hand side as what you might call a “proper” winger. His style is a bit of a throw-back, as he hugs the touch line and looks to attack full-backs on the outside, different to the wingers we see cutting inside and shooting in the modern game.
But despite his old-school approach, his style will compliment City perfectly. Opposition players will have to shuffle across a few yards to compensate for the natural width he will offer and in doing so, will open up space for the likes of Silva, Nasri and Sergio Aguero to go about their business.
His directness too, will scare the life out of full-backs, for Navas is dynamite to watch. He is a agile, creative player with electric pace. According to whoscored.com he created 79 chances in La Liga last season, the fifth highest total in the league. If he can isolate defenders one-on-one, his dynamic acceleration off will have many left-backs backing of nervously.
The solitary factor that might hinder the success of Navas is whether or not he can settle in the Premier League. But I wouldn’t anticipate this quite as big an issue as some are making out.
Firstly, the Premier League might not be as notorious to adapt too as it once was. We’ve seen players in recent years, especially those coming in from La Liga, hit the ground running. Silva started his City career in sparkling form after his transfer from Valencia, and so too did Santi Cazorla and Michu following their respective transfers from Malaga and Rayo Vallecano.
But when it comes to Navas, there have always been question marks about whether he can move away from Sevilla. He was apparently close to signing for Chelsea back in 2006 before issues emerged regarding anxiety and homesickness. Subsequently, that deal was scrapped.
Has this issue since been resolved? It looks like it has. For Navas has been to world cups and European championships with the Spanish team since. Plus, City tying up the deal early will give him time to acclimatize to his new surroundings in Manchester and get his mind focused ahead of his debut season
Most importantly of all perhaps, is the fact that Navas himself has agreed to go ahead with the move and has spoken with great excitement at the prospect of coming to England
The move makes enormous sense from a tactical point of view and it could well be the deal that sees City get right back in the mix for the Premier League title. Expect Navas to be the latest La Liga import to make a huge name for himself in the English game.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments section or on Twitter: @MattJFootball