Men’s Team

Joao Cancelo: 'Bewildering and devastating'

MOVING ON UP: Joao Cancelo.
Joao Cancelo is, by his own admission, ‘a very offensive right-back’.

It was the reputation that preceded his arrival in Manchester, and it was evident in flashes on his full debut against Preston North End, where, but for Ryan Ledson’s outstretched leg, he may have marked the occasion with a goal.

Cancelo started the move in question.

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A forward pass to Gabriel Jesus and he was off, sprinting straight for the six-yard box and, had Ledson not turned David Silva’s cross into his own net, the 25-year-old defender was well placed to capitalise.

It was a passage of play which showcased the attacking intent of a player Portuguese football expert Tom Kundert feels has unrivalled qualities in his position.

“Offensively, you could argue quite convincingly he is the best right-back in the world,” said Lisbon-based Kundert, who covered 50-years of Portuguese football in his book, ‘The Thirteenth Chapter’.

“He’s very skilful and a good dribbler. His acceleration allows him to drift past the opposition defenders. Sometimes it’s quite bewildering to watch.

“He doesn’t seem to have to do much, but always seems to beat his man and get to the by-line.

“One on one he can be devastating, almost unplayable, even against top opposition.”

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Cancelo has been eased into his new surroundings by Pep Guardiola, making three substitute appearances before playing the full 90 minutes against Preston.

He’s shown enough to impress the boss with his understanding of the game and while Kundert likens his ball-carrying style to Gareth Bale – a testament to his eye-catching attacking prowess – he stresses there are other, subtler attributes to appreciate.

World Soccer Magazine’s Portugal correspondent points to Cancelo's intelligence as one of his most striking attributes as well as his desire to improve, which he believes places the full-back in illustrious company in his homeland.

“He’s been intelligent in the way he’s managed his career,” Kundert added.

“He’s had quite a few clubs in a fairly young career, but he’s always given himself a chance to improve.

“He’s talked a lot about wanting to evolve and make himself a better player. He’s already achieved a lot.

"He could have sat back and taken it easy, but he is someone who likes to push himself.

“There are a few Portuguese players who are like that.

“Cristiano Ronaldo, of course, and Bernardo Silva, who constantly talks about the importance of putting yourself under pressure and trying to improve yourself.

“Cancelo seems to be that kind of guy. That’s one explanation for what he’s achieved so far.”

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