Josko Gvardiol: Manchester City’s Record-breaking Acquisition from RB Leipzig

Manchester City's new defender, Josko Gvardiol, in team attire.

Manchester City’s most recent signing of the 21-year-old Croatian defender, Josko Gvardiol, from RB Leipzig for a massive £77m has stirred excitement amongst fans and pundits alike. This transfer makes Gvardiol the second most costly defender in the history of the sport. Known as ‘little Pep’ due to the similarity of his name to City’s manager, Pep Guardiola, Gvardiol’s profile has been rapidly rising.

Gvardiol’s Place Among the Priciest Defenders

Interestingly, Gvardiol isn’t the first pricy defender to join Manchester City. The club already holds three spots in the top 10 list of the most expensive defenders, with Ruben Dias, Joao Cancelo, and Aymeric Laporte.

Here’s a quick glance at the top 10 most expensive defenders ever:

PlayerFrom – ToYearTransfer Fee
Harry MaguireLeicester – Man Utd2019£80m
Josko GvardiolRB Leipzig – Man City2023£77m
Virgil van DijkSouthampton – Liverpool2018£75m
Wesley FofanaLeicester – Chelsea2022£70m
Lucas HernandezAtletico Madrid – Bayern Munich2019£68m
Matthijs de Ligt x 2Ajax – Juventus, Juventus – Bayern Munich2019, 2022£67.5m, £65.6m
Ruben DiasBenfica – Manchester City2020£65m
Joao CanceloJuventus – Manchester City2019£60m
Aymeric LaporteAthletic Bilbao – Manchester City2018£57m
Marc CucurellaBrighton – Chelsea2022£55m

The ‘Little Pep’s’ Potential Role at City

Gvardiol, standing at 6ft 1in, is a left-sided central defender, giving him flexibility in the backline. He could potentially be featured in a back three or in a four-man defense, depending on Guardiola’s plans.

Yet, one can never fully predict a player’s trajectory under Guardiola’s management. Gvardiol’s current role as a central defender, who sometimes steps into the left-back position, may evolve significantly.

Statistical Analysis of Gvardiol’s Performance

Gvardiol’s statistics in the Bundesliga last season are worth examining. His passing accuracy was slightly lower, but he demonstrated more interventions and won possession more frequently than City’s current centre-backs.

Here’s a comparison of Gvardiol and City defenders’ performance in the last season per 90 minutes:

Passing accuracy89.3%93.1%93.3%93.3%91.1%92.7%
Possession won6.954.

Within Europe’s top five leagues, only four defenders touched the ball more times per 90 minutes than Gvardiol.

“He’s fast, intense, dynamic, really good at changing directions and really good at transitioning from attack and defence and vice versa,” German football expert Jasmine Baba told BBC Radio Manchester’s We’re Not Really Here podcast in June.

Unpacking Gvardiol’s Career and Achievements

Gvardiol already has four years of first-team experience with Dinamo Zagreb and Leipzig and has won a domestic cup in each of the past three seasons.

It was Croatia boss Zlatko Dalic who remarked, “Gvardiol is the best central defender in the world. He’s so mature. The way he plays, with the grace he controls the ball, it’s amazing.”

Gvardiol had an outstanding performance in the last World Cup, where he helped Croatia

reach the semi-finals and scored in their third-place play-off win against Morocco.

He not only completed 463 successful passes, ranking fourth in this category at the World Cup, but also took sixth place for ball touches (612). Notably, Gvardiol made the highest number of clearances (37) and was second, alongside England’s Declan Rice, for interceptions (11). His headed clearances (14) placed him fifth overall.

New Manchester City recruit, Josko Gvardiol.

From Nearly Leeds United to Manchester City

There’s an interesting subplot to Gvardiol’s career trajectory. In 2020, he was on the brink of signing with Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds United. However, he eventually chose to move to RB Leipzig, a decision that seems to have served him well.

After successful stints at Dinamo Zagreb and RB Leipzig, where he won domestic cups in 2021 and 2022-2023, respectively, Gvardiol’s journey has now brought him to Manchester City. This move signals his entry into the Premier League, one of the most competitive and exciting football leagues in the world.

Gvardiol’s Goal Against His New Club

Gvardiol’s talents aren’t limited to defense. One of his five goals for Leipzig was a memorable header against none other than his new club, Manchester City, in the Champions League last 16 first leg this year. This impressive feat is a testament to his capability as a threat in the opposition’s box, despite being primarily a defender.

The Appeal of Gvardiol to Guardiola

Despite being a stalwart at the back, Gvardiol exhibits traits that are highly valued in a modern footballer. His dynamism, intensity, and agility in defensive duties are coupled with excellent passing skills, even when under pressure.

It is clear why Guardiola, known for his philosophy of possession-based football, would be interested in such a prospect. Gvardiol’s ability to transition between attacking and defensive roles smoothly is particularly appealing, given Manchester City’s style of play. Jasmine Baba, a German football expert, even sees a possibility of Gvardiol being transitioned into a midfield role, similar to what happened with John Stones.

“It’s kind of a no-brainer why someone like Pep Guardiola would want him. He really is a dream prospect at his young age,” Baba commented on BBC Radio Manchester’s We’re Not Really Here podcast.

With Gvardiol’s potential versatility and solid defensive skills, fans and critics will be eagerly watching how he evolves and integrates into the Manchester City squad. His career thus far suggests that the sky is the limit for this young player, and under the guidance of Guardiola, we might witness the rise of another football star.

Football Expert Sam Mollnet
reviewed by: Sam Mollnet (Footbal Expert)

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