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Pep Guardiola hails rise of ‘beloved’ Cancelo after rocky start at City

Pep Guardiola admitted it took him a while to work out Joao Cancelo as the Manchester City boss spoke of the “sensitive” full-back who has become a key component of his side.

Cancelo joined Juventus in 2019, with the Portugal international initially struggling to establish himself on City’s side.

Guardiola admitted to making “mistakes” and lacking understanding on Cancelo’s behalf about how City expected him to perform.

Cancelo and City agreed to extend the player’s contract by two years until 2027.

Guardiola said such deals were “so important” for the team’s future.

Cancelo has developed into one of the world’s leading full-backs under Guardiola, currently deployed on the left.

But equally comfortable on the right, yet disagreements between player and coach hampered his start to life at the club.

Pep Guardiola said:

“Everybody knows how important Joao is with us and what he has done in the last two seasons, especially this season.

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“We had struggled together in the first part when he arrived. We disagreed on many things, in part [because] of my mistakes. Now I’m so delighted he’s thrilled here and can play in this club for the following years.

“He can play in many positions, and he can play every day. His physicality is impressive and, of course, the skill set he has, and he’s beloved in the locker room because he’s so funny.

“The club has to especially work for tomorrow, for the next months and the next years, and the decisions the club has made [regarding contracts] is because the club is working for the future and has to do this.”

Where manager Guardiola and Cancelo once struggled to understand each other, they are singing from the same hymn sheet.

Pep Guardiola, speaking in a news conference ahead of Saturday’s FA Cup clash with Fulham.

“Our knowledge of each other is much more excellent, and we must treat each player differently.

“I needed more time to know him, how sensitive he is. He’s an incredible person, has a big heart, so sensitive.

“Finally, I think now I understand him a little bit more mainly because he’s an essential player for us.

“When he arrived, we had an instructor to know how we wanted to play.

“And he struggled a little bit to understand what we wanted to do.

“That was the reason why. There were no arguments. Every player’s a world, and you have to understand them as much as possible. Sometimes you need time to understand each other.”

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Guardiola described Cancelo’s enthusiasm as “an amateur player”, pointing to his desire to play all the time.

“Like Phil Foden, it’s the most important thing in his life,” Pep Guardiola said.

Cancelo directly contributed to eight goals for City last season (five assists, three goals), but he is stepping up his contribution this term.

He already has eight assists and three goals in 2021-22, helping City keep 12 clean sheets across the 30 matches he has featured in.

Cancelo has created 87 chances in the Premier League since making his debut.

Cancelo is ranked eighth in defenders, with Trent Alexander-Arnold (211) leading the way.

Midfield prospect James McAtee, 19, was another City player to sign a new contract this week.

And Guardiola thinks the youngster could have a role to play in the season’s closing months.

“Maybe we will need him. In the future, we will see,” Guardiola said. “It is essential he’s fully committed to the club. He arrived when he was a tiny little boy, and he’s a Man City supporter, and he loves to be here.

“We’re more than delighted with the confidence he and his family have in the club and [that] he could extend his contract to stay here with us.”

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