When reports broke on Wednesday evening that Manchester City were in negotiations to sign Jonny Evans, fellow Premier League fans scoffed. After a summer of being linked with Europe’s finest – and few players with a value lower than £50m – it seemed a surprise to see Pep Guardiola target a player who currently plies his trade with West Bromwich Albion.
With all due respect to the Baggies, it’s hard to believe that Guardiola would have his eye on a player from a Tony Pulis system. The Welsh coach is one of the most respected Premier League leaders outside of the top six, for his high-structure, watertight tactics, but comparisons between Pulis and Guardiola are few and far between.
Regardless, it appears that the Spaniard is ready to raid the Hawthorns to pinch one of their most important players, but why?
A winning DNA
One of the most surprising aspects of this rumour was Evans’ links with City’s rivals Manchester United. The Northern Irishman spent 11 years at Old Trafford, having been scouted by United whilst playing for Greenisland FC at the age of nine. He went on to make 198 appearances and win three league titles under Sir Alex Ferguson. In the modern game, those are impressive figures for any academy graduate.
According to Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill, Ferguson was less than impressed by Louis Van Gaal’s decision to let Evans leave Old Trafford:
“In September after last year’s Euros, there was a conference in France for the coaches and Sir Alex was there talking about it and he openly said to me that he could not believe Van Gaal had sold Jonny from United.
“Because having seen him come through, he felt Jonny would spend his whole career at United or certainly to the latter stages of his career.”
Ferguson clearly saw Evans as one of his success stories, and anyone that the legendary manager is happy with would be good enough for most teams in the world. If Guardiola is looking for someone that’s been there and done it, then Evans’ experiences on the other side of Manchester would be invaluable.
A role model for Stones
In the current climate, English fans are desperately clinging onto any positive influence on our national stars. Whether it be Mauricio Pochettino, Ronald Koeman or Zlatan Ibrahimovic, we yearn desperately for raw English talent to improve in their presence. John Stones is widely considered to possess the raw talent needed to be a star but is yet to fully step into Rio Ferdinand’s ‘ball-playing centre-back’ shoes.
Although only 29 years of age himself, Evans would certainly represent a positive influence on Stones. He once had to fight off critics to establish his role in a title-winning squad and knows what it takes to shake the monkeys off your back. Furthermore, his defensive statistics from last season were generally superior to Stones’, and can subsequently lead by example.
Homegrown depth at its best
In the modern era, a homegrown player is one of the most valuable necessities of a Premier League squad. As we are seeing at Chelsea, who are targeting Danny Drinkwater as a midfield option, managers are now looking within the league for squad players in order to comply with the quotas that the league imposes on them.
City have not had much luck with this sort of recruitment in the past. The likes of Scott Sinclair, Jack Rodwell and Fabian Delph come to mind as examples cut-price moves that never came off. Yet Evans represents a lower risk for City. He’s older, more experienced within a big side, captained his country and will be under no disillusions about his role, if he joins Guardiola’s side.
If Manchester City can agree a fee of under £25m with West Brom for their captain, then it represents solid value in the current market. It also, probably, drags them out of any bidding war that may yet ensue between Chelsea and Liverpool for Virgil van Dijk. As Evans will know himself, that’s not the sort of drama that you need at the start of a Premier League title chasing season.
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