Joao Cancelo was on the verge of completing a shock loan move to Bayern Munich from Manchester City on Monday night in the wake of a bust-up with manager Pep Guardiola.
Relations between Cancelo and Guardiola had been deteriorating for weeks and reached a head when the Portugal full-back learned he would not be starting in City’s FA Cup win over Arsenal on Friday night.
Cancelo reacted angrily to the news, which forced relations with Guardiola to hit rock bottom, and led City to agree to let the player leave when his representatives presented a loan offer from Bayern, despite them being a Champions League rival.
The 28-year-old arrived in Munich on Monday afternoon before a medical with the Bundesliga leaders.
He is due to join Bayern on loan until the end of the season although it is understood the deal will include an option for them to buy Cancelo for €70 million (£61.6m) at the end of the season.
Under Uefa rules, Cancelo will be free to face City in the Champions League should the English champions and Bayern end up meeting each other in the competition this season.
Cancelo had become increasingly frustrated with a lack of playing time since returning from the World Cup last month and had not been unafraid to voice his frustrations, which are said to have created growing tensions behind the scenes.
Telegraph Sport reported earlier this month how Cancelo was attracting interest from a number of European clubs after falling out of favour but news of his imminent exit has still come as a shock to many City supporters.
Cancelo signed a new contract with City only 12 months ago that tied him to the club until June 2027 and was in the PFA team of the year last season as the Premier League’s best left-back.
But he started just three of City’s past 10 games in all competitions and did not react well to falling down the pecking order.
Cancelo going will leave City with just one recognised left-back Sergio Gómez, who remains unproven and very much on the fringes of the first team squad.
Yet sources at City have indicated that, with the emergence of teenager Rico Lewis at right-back and five centre-halves on the club’s books – three of whom, John Stones, Manuel Akanji and Nathan Ake, can play at full-back – they have adequate cover in the position. It remains to be seen if City opt to now do any late business in the window.
The situation will leave Kyle Walker as the only established senior full-back in addition to the highly-regarded 18-year-old Lewis, who has just four Premier League starts to his name, and Gómez.
Despite relations with Cancelo breaking down, Guardiola’s willingness to loan out the player is still a huge show of faith in Lewis in particular.
City insiders also indicated that, with the team shape and formation changing, Cancelo’s game time was likely to be even more restricted going forwards.
Lewis has been playing a more advanced midfield role from right-back this term which has in turn had an impact on how Guardiola uses his left-back.
Guardiola is hoping City can finally end their wait to win the Champions League this season but Bayern are likely to represent one of their main obstacles to doing so.
City face RB Leipzig in the Round of 16 while Bayern have been paired with Paris Saint-Germain and the prospect of Cancelo facing his parent club later in the competition would be an interesting plot line.
In 2020, Philippe Coutinho, on loan at Bayern from Barcelona, scored twice and recorded an assist against his then parent club in an 8-2 thrashing of the Catalan side in the Champions League quarter-finals.
Guardiola has been urging City to rediscover the “fire” that helped them to win four league titles in five seasons after accusing them of becoming a “happy flowers” team in the wake of a 4-2 comeback win over Tottenham.
City – who subsequently went on to beat Wolves 3-0 in the league and Arsenal, albeit unconvincingly, 1-0 in the FA Cup – face Spurs again on Sunday and Akanji believes Guardiola’s call to arms has helped.
“It might have helped, it might have provoked us a little bit,” he said. “Probably that’s what he wanted. I think we showed a great reaction in the games that we’ve had. Hopefully we can keep going like this.”