Manchester City have changed the English football landscape in the last five or so years, according to the club’s latest record signing, Rodrigo Hernández. The £62m defensive midfielder signed from Atlético Madrid gave a straight answer when asked whether Spanish players now thought City a more attractive destination than Manchester United.
“I talk with some of the guys back home and they tell me the city of Manchester might be becoming more blue,” the 23-year-old said. “I think in the last few years City have changed the story in England, not just in Manchester, but I am not here for the rivalry, I am here for the football challenge.”
Generally known as Rodri, the player will wear the name Rodrigo on the back of his shirt. Bayern Munich were also willing to meet the €70m buyout clause Atlético put on the Spain international, though he said he had an easy decision to make as soon as he knew City were interested.
“This is one of the greatest teams around at the moment. I would say City are in the top two or three in the world, so from the moment I heard City were interested there was no doubt in my mind. For me it is a great step, not just because of the team but because of Pep Guardiola and Txiki Begiristain.
“I am still very young and I know I have a lot to the learn, but players who have played for Pep told me this would be the best place to further my career. Sergio Busquets, a player I have always admired, told me that Pep Guardiola would not only improve my game, he would not stop trying to improve it.”
Rodri has been described as similar in style to Busquets, though the player he has been bought to replace in Manchester is Fernandinho, who was one of the club’s key performers last season but at 34 is coming to the end of his career and becoming more susceptible to injury.
“I don’t expect to go straight into the team,” Rodri said. “I know it will be tough to establish myself here because there are great players in every department of the team. I wouldn’t say I am just the same as Busquets – I have other skills and aptitudes of my own – but we play in the same position and try to do similar things for the team.”
City’s new acquisition was an ever-present for Atlético last season playing for Diego Simeone, who like Guardiola made his name as a defensive midfielder. Rodri speaks fluent English – “I had the opportunity to travel to America when I was younger and learned the language” – and insists City now have a worldwide reputation.
“They have become one of the most feared teams in Europe, and not just because they pass the ball around very well but because they can hurt opponents in the final third. They dominate English football and I think they are only a small step from doing the same in the Champions League.”
Rodri’s arrival at City as the successor to Fernandinho as the holding player means Guardiola can focus on landing the second of his two major transfer targets. The manager also wants a centre-back following Vincent Kompany’s departure.
Guardiola’s first choice is Harry Maguire but Leicester’s valuation of the 26-year-old – thought to be around £80m – is not matched by City. Manchester United have made a £70m offer for the England international.
City’s manager believes Eric García, an 18-year-old central defender, has the potential to establish himself in the first team, having joined from Barcelona two years ago. García made his City debut in December and got two further appearances last season but is yet to feature in the Premier League, so Guardiola is intent on acquiring an established player in the position.
Guardiola is likely to move to strengthen other areas only if a player demands to leave.
The right-back Danilo may do so, because he is second choice behind Kyle Walker. Should the Brazilian ask for a transfer, Juventus’s João Cancelo would be assessed as a possible replacement.
Angeliño, a 22-year-old left-back, has re-signed for City from PSV Eindhoven, the Spaniard having joined the Dutch club last summer. His arrival may provide competition to Benjamin Mendy and Oleksandr Zinchenko.