Nolito has had an incredible rise to the top of the Spanish game, and his performance for Spain against Turkey confirmed his status as an important player for the national side. Manchester City have an ageing side, and at the age of 29, Nolito won’t inject youthful energy, but there is no doubting his qualities. Barcelona are known to be long term admirers of the left winger, while Manchester City’s interest suggests that Pep Guardiola is also a huge fan. People are quick to criticise Guardiola for taking yet another easy job, but that isn’t the case. The job at the Etihad Stadium is a difficult one, as there is a big squad rebuild needed and the current players lack an elite mentality.
Guardiola is certainly the correct man for the job, and the pursuit of Nolito is an example of his excellent eye for talent. He is available for a good fee, believed to be around £14.1m, which is pocket change for Premier League clubs these days, especially one bankrolled by an oil sheikh. Nolito is a player who could play at the top level for another three or four years, with pace not being a major part of his game.
He is a direct forward, with an eye for goal, as he has already showed in the European Championships. For Celta Vigo this season, he managed to score 12 goals and got 7 assists, in what was his best season in his career. Pep Guardiola will look to play an attractive style of football with Manchester City, and this is why Nolito will fit in well, as he is used to playing a similar style with Spain. He is obviously a quick learner, having fitted in seamlessly with the national side, and he is the type of character that Guardiola loves to coach.
The Spanish international isn’t a classic winger, who likes to get chalk on his boots, he prefers to roam across the attacking positions behind the striker. He prefers to play as an inside forward, and get close to the main striker. His movement is excellent, often finding space in the final third and his finishing is very good. He also has an eye for a pass, and loves to create chances for his team-mates. He has the potential to become a great foil for Sergio Aguero. It is surprising that he has never consistently played at the top level as there is no doubting his talent. Some players get better with age, and Nolito is certainly an example of that.
In terms of weaknesses, it can be argued that Nolito has never played for a big team consistently and its a risk to bring him to one so late in his career. He can also be rash defensively and give away too many fouls when he does track back. His improvement over the last 12 months and emergence in the Spanish side shows that he can iron out the weaknesses and enjoy two or three years at the very top of the sport.
Manchester City have a lot of work to do under Pep Guardiola and it could be a couple of years before he fully assembles the squad that he wants. He has an ageing squad and needs to bring in several players to breathe life into it. Guardiola has a specific profile of players that he likes to coach, ones that are tactically flexible and capable of playing his high intensity, passing game. Nolito certainly fits into that, and at the price of his release clause, he is a low risk target for the two-time Premier League winners. He can play the dynamic attacking style that Guardiola promotes, and he is also a huge goal threat, which will take some of the pressure away from Aguero, who can’t be relied on over 38 games due to his injury record. Nolito is hungry for success after an average career to date and City need players with that personality, with too many players being happy to just pick up a pay cheque at the club in the past.