After Vincent Kompany left the club back in the summer of 2019, Manchester City were always short in central defence. Not just in numbers, but in quality.
The Belgian left after a 10 year spell in Manchester, meaning Aymeric Laporte, Nicolas Otamendi, John Stones and Eric Garcia were the only recognised centre-backs at the club. Rather than replace him Pep Guardiola opted to use Fernandinho in defence which was fine when Laporte played, but when he didn’t (which was often) they looked shaky.
This summer City have prioritised a central defender with real quality, with Kalidou Koulibaly of Napoli the number one target for the club. Nathan Ake was brought in to shore up numbers too, but Koulibaly remained the man that was most often linked to bolstering the back line.
After months of negotiations, the deal has failed to move forward and City have reportedly move on to other targets with just 9 days left of the transfer window. Jules Kounde of Sevilla was subject to a €55million bid last week, but Sevilla rejected the offer and pointed towards his €80million release clause. Koulibaly’s price has been reported to be around €70million with add-ons included, so it’s highly unlikely City go that high for the young Frenchman when their number one choice is cheaper.
This has seemingly brought them to Portugal’s big defensive hope of the new generation in Ruben Dias.
According to Fabrizio Romano Manchester City have entered talks with Benfica over a potential move for Dias, with Nicolas Otamendi likely to go in the opposite direction to help lower the fee. But is Dias the answer?
For me, not just yet. Dias is a very good defender and has shown that he is better than the Portuguese league with his performances for the national team. He is comfortable on the ball, relatively quick, strong in a one-on-one situation and competitive in the air. But he doesn’t stand out in any of those fields as exceptional to me.
As an option alongside Laporte, Dias would fit in seamlessly and he’s definitely an upgrade on Stones, Ake and Otamendi but City’s issue is when Laporte isn’t there. Koulibaly is used to being that cornerstone of a defence so he’d have no issue taking on the mantle if he was signed, while Kounde did well as the leader of the Sevilla defence despite being only 21 years old. Dias is the leader of the Benfica defence right now but it says something that Porto pipped them to the title last season and his best performances have undoubtedly come for the national team alongside Pepe.
The reported fee of €55-60million plus Otamendi seems quite extortionate in the current market but Guardiola must be keen to either bolster the defence no matter what, or this is a ploy to put pressure on Napoli.
I don’t think it’s the latter and Dias’ reputation is high. He has talent and at only 23 years old he will only improve. Personally, I think he needs a step between where he is now and Man City, so he can bed himself into the league and improve more before the big price tag adds the extra pressure on him. A club like Leicester would be ideal for him, where they will compete against everyone in the division and play with the same principles as the best teams in the league.
Overall, that step looks unlikely to come now with a deal reportedly close and I’m excited to see Ruben Dias in the Premier League.