The bulk of Manchester City’s transfer activity was oriented around building for the future. With the exception of the experienced Claudio Bravo and Nolito, who both joined from La Liga sides, City took an interest in buying young, hungry players.
The likes of Ukranian midfielder Alex Zinchenko, Colombian Marlos Moreno and Brazil 2016 Olympic Gold medallist Gabriel Jesus were all snapped up and are all currently on loan, looking both to impress and improve and be fully ready to make their mark in the City side when the time is right.
Ilkay Gundogan, while an established player and a German international at 25, is partially been brought because of how he can develop as a player – in Gundogan and Kevin De Bruyne, City are well-stocked in midfield for the next eight to ten years.
The signing of fellow German Leroy Sane from Schalke provides further evidence that City are thinking about the future.
But the absolute epitome of City’s transfer business is the signing of John Stones; a player who comes in with a wealth of experience in English football at the ripe age of 20.
Many rival fans scoffed at City’s capture of Stones, who became the world’s most expensive defender at £47.5m, plus add ons. It’s not his fault he commanded such a fee though – Everton set their price and City felt he had enough about him to warrant their investment.
For a player who you could get 10 years of service from, it’s not so bad business is it? Much like the signing of Raheem Sterling last summer, City are largely paying for potential with Stones.
While he is an established name already, playing under, and learning from Pep Guardiola is absolutely invaluable for a player like Stones.
I felt that he was mismanaged by Roberto Martinez last season and that didn’t provide an accurate reflection of his quality on the pitch. It’s telling that when paired with a manager who is demanding the very best from you at all times and constantly drumming information into your head, you are bound to improve and Stones has already made huge strides under Guardiola.
Even in a canter of a game on Tuesday where City were dominant against Borussia Monchengladbach, Pep still found time to pull City’s No.24 over and fill him with ideas. Similarly to how he was gesticulating to Joshua Kimmich last season, Guardiola looked like he was shouting and balling, but Stones was quite clearly taking in the information he was being fed.
And it showed in his performance. Stones completed an incredible 79 out of his 83 attempted passes – furthermore that’s an astounding 97% pass accuracy. While stats don’t always tell the story, if that’s not Pep’s philosophy perfected, I’m not sure what is.
Stones is already grasping Guardiola’s methods. It’s not as if he is merely passing the ball backwards and sideways as well, he is a player who looks to bring the ball forward at every possible opportunity and he did that superbly in the 4-0 win over Monchengladbach.
There’s a notion that the 20-year old can’t defend and is simply all about nice passing, yet he’s proved in his performances that he has an extremely competent defender – he stifled Zlatan Ibrahimovic at Old Trafford last week and put in a colossal man of the match display away at Stoke City back in August.
This is all in the absence of City skipper Vincent Kompany, who Stones is yet to pair up with in the City backline. When Kompany, a seasoned promo, is back in the City side, Stones will continue to grow at even greater pace.
He has all the necessary attributes to be one of the best defenders in the world; pace off the mark, strong in the air and an excellent reader of the game. As far as his ability on the ball goes, he is being coached by Pep as to when to play out from the back and when to hook the ball clear.