Yes, you don’t need to double-take, Manchester City are still looking to splash money on full-backs. Despite spending approximately £130m on wide defenders so far this summer, Pep Guardiola still feels that he is short at the back, and is now preparing a bid for Espanyol’s 20-year-old defender Aarón Martín.
After losing Bacary Sagna, Aleksandar Kolarov, Pablo Zabaleta and Gael Clichy this summer, City are still short at the back and their recruiting of Kyle Walker, Benjamin Mendy and Danilo have not sufficed Guardiola. This has been exemplified by the deployment of Leroy Sané as a left wing-back for the beginning of the season in the absence of Mendy through injury.
Now, several media outlets – including Sport – report that City have tabled a €20m bid for the Spain U19 international Martín, who made 30 appearances for Espanyol last season. The 20-year-old has reportedly been on the radar of Real Madrid, but it now seems that Guardiola is ready to raid Catalonia for the young full-back.
Martín’s career so far is dominated by Espanyol. He joined the Catalan club at just eight years of age and made his way through the ranks with the youth setup. In 2015, the 20-year-old broke through to the Espanyol B side, making 36 appearances in Segunda División B, which is the elaborate equivalent to League 1 in Spain.
Last season, Martín made his debut for the senior Espanyol team, and quickly became a permanent fixture for Quique Sanchez-Flores, as the Catalan club finished in an impressive 8th place. Whilst the left-back didn’t earn the plaudits that Theo Hernandez did at Alaves, his contribution was solid and attracted the attention of bigger clubs.
Not your average La Liga full-back
At 1.80m – about 5’11 – Martín is tall for a full-back, and goes against the stereotype that many may label La Liga wing-backs with. Whilst he is capable in attack, his strengths lie in defence. He is not a modern full-back that sacrifices his defensive duties to bomb forward and join the attack, and this is backed-up by his statistics from last season, as represented below…
|La Liga Stats 16/17||Aerials Won||Interceptions||Blocks||Clearances||Tackles|
Now, obviously, we’re not expecting Marcelo and Jordi Alba to have the highest defensive stats – they simply don’t need them – but for Martín to perform higher than two of the best left-backs in the world is more impressive nonetheless. The Espanyol man’s high number of interceptions highlights his defensive intelligence and ability to be aggressive in a pressing system, just how Guardiola likes.
Whilst his attacking statistics don’t stand-out on Martín’s resumé, they are not incompetent and will be able to add something to City’s system. The Espanyol full-back completed more takeons (38), key passes (22) and created more chances (22) than Kolarov (23/14/15) and Clichy (7/16/16) did in the Premier League last season. As part of Guardiola’s gradual squad upgrade, Martín would be a valuable piece.
A long-term investment
The ultimate pull-factor that Martín holds is his age. At 20 years of age, the left-back is still a raw and very moldable talent, that Guardiola should be able to implement his vision on without any problem. Furthermore, the Catalan connection between the two would allow the Manchester City boss to give Martín instructions in their most natural form.
On paper, it would seem that Martín would be replacing Clichy, 32, in the Manchester City squad which is a complete no-brainer. The 20-year-old would initially be an understudy to Mendy, when he returns from injury, but his profile and ability would allow him to constantly compete for the starting spot. To have two very capable players in each position is every manager’s idealistic dream, and Martín would be a very adequate left-back option to challenge City’s £50m Frenchman.
The Spaniard only signed a new contract back in January, keeping him at Espanyol until 2022, but the deal has a €30m buy-out clause that will rise to €40m in June 2018. If reports are to be believed, City’s opening bid comes in at €20m, which indicates that the Manchester club are attempting to bring down the left-back’s price.
Yet, with only €10m between the opening bid and the current buyout, there’s a very real possibility that Martín could be holding the sky blue shirt of City before the end of the window.
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