Until two and a half months ago, João Cancelo played for Manchester City under Pep Guardiola. Now the 28-year-old defensive all-rounder meets his old colleagues in the quarter-finals of the Champions League with FC Bayern Munich – and could become an important informant for coach Thomas Tuchel.
“I have to admit that it will be strange because we played together not so long ago,” said Manchester City defense chief Ruben Dias before the reunion with his ex-colleague and fellow Portuguese João Cancelo. “We’ve developed a close bond during our time here together.”
Of course, Cancelo not only maintains personal relationships with his former club, but also has tactical insights. “He knows City’s pattern,” explained coach Thomas Tuchel at the press conference before the game. “But I would say I know her quite well too.” Before joining Bayern Munich, Tuchel worked for City’s Premier League rivals Chelsea and beat Guardiola’s side in the 2021 Champions League final.
For his part, Cancelo switched to City in 2019 and played there for a year with Leroy Sané before he moved on to Munich for 49 million euros. The reunion at FC Bayern came about because Cancelo suddenly lost his regular place at City in the winter and Bayern quickly struck on Deadline Day. The loan deal until the end of the season includes a purchase option of 70 million euros.
Matthijs de Ligt on Cancelo’s move: “Surprising”
“It was a bit of a surprise for us that a player of quality came to us,” emphasized his new defensive colleague Matthijs de Ligt at the press conference on Monday. “João is a fantastic player, he played great at City.” The change was allegedly preceded by disputes with Guardiola.
In general, the 28-year-old Portuguese is considered an impulsive type. “I hope he can balance his emotions and is neither overly motivated nor too shy,” said Tuchel, looking ahead to the duel with his former club.
Cancelo recently gave in the club magazine 51 admitted that he was “very impulsive and sentimental”. “I’m probably easy to see through because I always express what I feel. Transparent people like me don’t always have it easy in today’s fast and unforgiving world.”
João Cancelo: Changeable time at Bayern Munich
At FC Bayern, Cancelo got off to a strong start after his surprising move, but then fell into a performance slump and lost his starting place. In the round of 16 first leg of the Champions League at Paris Saint-Germain, the then coach Julian Nagelsmann substituted him at half-time and in the second leg only in the closing stages. Alphonso Davies and Kingsley Coman mostly took the starting positions on the outside positions in the three-chain system.
Tuchel has let his team play with a back four in the previous three games. Cancelo was on the bench in the win against Borussia Dortmund, he played at left-back in the DFB-Pokal loss against SC Freiburg and then on the other side in the revenge match in the Bundesliga. Tuchel also spoke of the possibility of deploying Cancelo in defensive midfield. It is still unclear whether he will be in the starting XI against his former club.
Last week, the coach praised his flexible defensive player for his “highest individual quality in understanding the game, in the left foot, in the right foot, in passing, in creativity” and said in the best Guardiola language: “I love Cancelo.”
This love may end in the summer. FC Bayern will probably not invest the fixed transfer fee of 70 million euros. Another loan or negotiations with City about a cheaper change would be conceivable. According to the Spanish Sports But FC Barcelona is also trying to get a commitment.