If reports ring true then Manchester City will shortly unveil Spain forward Nolito as Pep Guardiola’s second signing and for one Citizen in particular, his arrival could signify a very testing season ahead.
Having taken several Anthony Joshua-sized hits in the media this summer thanks to his involvement in England’s disappointing Euro 2016 campaign, 21-year-old Raheem Sterling could scarcely do with more world-class competition for his place at club level.
With cutting criticism of his performances across the channel still ringing in his ears, Sterling faces a direct battle against Nolito for one spot on the left of a three-man attack and at this juncture, there is one obvious winner.
Although the former Liverpool player was generally Manuel Pellegrini’s preferred choice to operate from the left last season and 11 goals were registered in all competitions, it was a debut campaign which tailed off so badly that many questioned his place in the 23-man Euro 2016 squad altogether.
Nolito’s fortunes couldn’t be more contrasting in terms of his own personal campaign for club and country heading into the transfer window.
The 29-year-old continued to excel for Celta Vigo in La Liga in 2015/16, scoring 12 goals and registering seven assists. Compare this to figures of six and two in the Premier League for Sterling.
Although the Spanish squad was saturated by Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid representatives, Celta’s number 10 then fired in four goals in friendlies ahead of Euro 2016, not only earning him a place at the tournament but also a spot in Vicente del Bosque’s starting line-up.
City’s rumoured £13.8m purchase repaid the faith with a goal in the group stages against Turkey and despite the two-time European champions exiting alongside England in the round of 16, albeit to Italy, Nolito earned plenty of plaudits.
Even before his exploits for La Roja this summer several of the continent’s big boys, including Guardiola’s former club Bayern Munich, were reportedly in the hunt for his signature.
It remains to be seen whether City’s new boss has a contingency plan in place for Sterling, but while repairing his shattered confidence probably takes priority, Nolito can hit the ground running.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.