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It wouldn’t be wrong to say that the transfer of Kyle Walker to Manchester City from Tottenham Hotspur for a fee of £50million has stirred up a hornet’s nest.
The transfer, that has made Walker the most expensive defender in the world, has sparked a lot of emotions among the footballing fraternity. And to a large extent, the shocking reactions, that the humongous transfer fee paid for the Englishman has drawn, are justified.
When a world-class centre-half like Leonardo Bonucci costs AC Milan £35.1million, it does make you ask the question, “How Does Walker Amount For More Money Than Bonucci?”
The Italian international, largely regarded as the finest centre-half of the current era, has been at the forefront of the immense success that Juve have achieved since the turn of the decade. Six Serie A titles, two appearances in the finals of the UEFA Champions League, three Italian Cups and Super Cups each. And Walker, till date, hasn’t won a single trophy in his professional career. Yet, Pep Guardiola has gone ahead and made him the world’s costliest defender.
When one thinks about the biggest asset that the 27-year old Englishman possesses in his game, the answer is usually his ‘pace’. But that cannot be considered as a stand-out quality because in this day and age, almost every modern day full-back has great ground speed. Walker’s aerial ability is something that does give him an edge, and his ability and stamina to run up and down the flank all day long is another strong feature. This lack of stamina in his previous full-backs at City was highlighted on plenty of occasions by Guardiola last season.
“We don’t have full-backs to go up and down, up and down, because all of them are 33, 34 years old,” the Catalan had said (as quoted by Goal), following their draw against Manchester United in April earlier this year.
Surely, Walker will be able to address that issue for the Sky Blues. But, does that warrant the huge amount of money that they just spent on him?
Throughout his managerial career, the former Bayern Munich and Barcelona boss has been blessed with some technically gifted full-backs in the form of Dani Alves, Philipp Lahm, Jordi Alba and David Alaba, which allowed him to implement his plans to the dot. So, it was no wonder that Guardiola was keen on signing Alves again, when a chance presented itself. However, the Brazilian snubbed them to join Paris Saint-Germain. And City ended up paying over the top for Walker, who can hardly be considered among those names.
Walker’s end product and decision making in the final third have always been under the scanner. When he is on the pitch, it always feels like he has a mistake in him, waiting to happen. There will be moments where his concentration will be lapsed, providing opportunities for the opponents.
His distribution isn’t that great either – something which is extremely vital to Guardiola’s setup, considering that he likes his full-backs to press up in a defensive midfield position when his team is on the attack and shift wide only when his forward players occupy a narrow position at the top.
Yes, the 27-year old has been in the Premier League for a number of years now and has the requisite experience of English football that any player arriving from elsewhere would have lacked. Walker was also named the PFA Young Player of the Year in 2012 and was named in the PFA Team of the Year back then, as well as the last season, highlighting that he has the skills needed to succeed at this level. A full England international, Walker has nailed down the starting spot at right-back for the Three Lions as well.
No question that there are a number of redeeming qualities in Walker. But can he do it in a system that Guardiola swears by? In a system that is unlikely to change to accommodate just one player? The jury still remains out. And that is not what you want to hear, after you shell out a whopping £50million.
Like West Ham United boss Slaven Bilic said last week speaking to NovaTV (via Goal):
“The money in football is absurd in context of ‘normal’ people, it has been that way for some time and it shouldn’t be like that. You have [Justin] Bieber who is earning a lot more than Rolling Stones, not to mention Led Zeppelin or Elvis Presley. Everything cracked, nothing is normal anymore.”
Couldn’t have said it any better!