Joao Cancelo has landed at Barça at the age of 29, following a long professional career that began at Benfica and continued at Valencia, Inter, Juventus, Manchester City and Bayern, where he arrived on loan halfway through last season. His desire, as he explained at his presentation, was to play for Barça and, although he remains the property of City, it has taken him just four games to prove that his dream was not a whim and, on the other hand, to prove Xavi right, the person who insisted most on his arrival.
It is usual and even advisable that there are discrepancies when it comes to going for one player or another to reinforce a specific position. It happens in all clubs and Barça is no exception. When the time came to go for a right-back, Deco believed that the best option was Iván Fresneda, one of the revelations of last season with Valladolid. So much so that the 18-year-old ended up signing for Sporting of Portugal, who paid nine million euros for him. Xavi, on the other hand, believed more in Cancelo's experience. The two eventually agreed on the decision and the director of the Football Department set to work to secure the loan of the Portuguese player, in which his agent, Jorge Mendes, also played a very important role.
The numbers, but above all the sensations, are of a footballer of the greats. Cancelo and Barça have fitted together like a glove to the point that, in these four games, he has already been able, with two goals, to surpass his goalscoring records at Bayern, Juventus and Inter, where he was only able to score one goal. At Valencia he had performed better: he played 91 games, scoring four goals and providing eight assists. And at Manchester City, Pep Guardiola also knew how to get the best out of the player thanks to a system that allowed him to be the protagonist, unlike in his adventures in Italy or Germany, even with Nagelsmann or later with Tuchel. That said, the relationship did not end well between the Catalan coach and the player.
Cancelo's absolute freedom
With Xavi, Cancelo has total freedom to attack, to go inside, to penetrate the box, to open up on the wing. His physical deployment, which has surprised more than one in the dressing room, allows him to play ninety minutes at an enormous pace. The best proof of this are the two goals he has scored so far. The first came in the 5-0 win, when the Portuguese scored the fifth in the 81st minute with a display of power, technique and quality. He repeated the feat against Celta, this time in the 89th minute, when he arrived fresh in the box and took advantage of Gavi's pass to complete the comeback. Earlier, in the 85th minute, he had already set up Lewandowski.
Cancelo has been directly involved in a goal every 95 minutes since he has been at Barça, an average within the reach of very few defenders in the world. It remains to be seen whether these numbers will continue, but it is clear that Xavi has a decisive and differential player in a position that has been lacking in for too many years at Barca.
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