Manchester City signed Croatia centre-back Joško Gvardiol from Leipzig for 90 million euros ($99.2 million) on Saturday, ranking him among the most expensive defenders in football history.
The 21-year-old Gvardiol, known as “Little Pep” because of his name’s likeness to City manager Pep Guardiola, is one of the most highly rated defenders in the world and enhanced his reputation with impressive performances for Croatia at the World Cup last year.
He signed a five-year contract with City, which won a treble of trophies last season: the Premier League title, Champions League and FA Cup.
“Anyone who saw Manchester City play last season knows they are the best team in the world,” Gvardiol said. “To win the treble says everything you need to know about the quality this team has. To be joining City is something very special for me and my family.”
At Leipzig, Gvardiol won the German Cup in back-to-back seasons and played in the Champions League.
The transfer fee puts him among the likes of Manchester United’s Harry Maguire, who cost 80 million pounds (then $97 million) when he joined from Leicester in 2019, and Virgil van Dijk, who moved from Southampton to Liverpool for 75 million pounds (then $100 million) in 2018.
“He is a player we have watched closely, and we feel he has a superb set of attributes,” City director of football Txiki Begiristain said. “Top clubs all over Europe have been monitoring him, so to bring him here is great news for us.
“Josko has so many qualities — everything you want in a centre-half. He is fast, competitive, combative, strong in the air, impressive in possession of the ball, with strong self-belief and a good character. He is left-footed, too, which offers us good options at the back.”
Gvardiol would likely play on the left side of City’s back three, if Guardiola persists with the 3-2-4-1 formation he deployed in the second half of last season.
City also has Nathan Ake for that role in a formation that essentially sees the team play a defense full of center backs and dispense with full backs.
“To have the chance to work with Pep Guardiola, too, will be amazing for me,” Gvardiol said. “I know I am not yet the finished article and I am sure my game will progress under the best coach in football.”
Gvardiol is City’s second signing of the offseason, after Croatia teammate Mateo Kovacic, who replaced Ilkay Gundogan in the squad. Gundogan, City’s captain last season, has joined Barcelona, and winger Riyad Mahrez moved to Saudi Arabia with Al-Ahli.
Leipzig will be losing a third key player this offseason, having sold playmaker Dominik Szoboszlai to Liverpool and forward Christopher Nkunku to Chelsea. Highly rated young Slovenian striker Benjamin Šeško is joining Leipzig for the new season.
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