Men's Team

Joao Cancelo: Champions in focus

In the wake of yet another hugely successful campaign, our latest series shines the spotlight on each member of Pep Guardiola's squad.

A fourth Premier League title in five seasons was sealed on a dramatic final day, as City got the win we needed to stave off Liverpool's challenge for supremacy.

Rodrigo and Ilkay Gundogan were the heroes on the day, as their goals helped Guardiola's men come from two goals down to beat Aston Villa 3-2, but the entire squad has played a vital part in yet another memorable campaign.

Today is the turn of our flying Portuguese full-back, Joao Cancelo.

Season stats

Total appearances: 52

Total goals: 3

Total assists: 10

Premier League appearances: 36

Total cumulative minutes (all competitions): 4,622

Season’s highlight

A near ever-present for City, Cancelo’s season has been littered with phenomenal moments of individual brilliance.

However, his man of the match performance away to Newcastle in December 2021 stands out above the crowd.

Having already set up fellow defender Ruben Dias for the opening goal at St. James' Park with an acrobatic cutback, the defender took the game by the scruff of the neck with an astonishing second.

Picking up play from Riyad Mahrez just inside the attacking half, the 28-year-old skipped away from the challenges of Joe Willock and Isaac Hayden before rifling an unstoppable drive into the top corner.

He pointed to his ear in celebration, but his incredible strike had instead left the majority of those in attendance utterly speechless.

Overview

Having been named in the 2020/21 Premier League team of the year, it would have seemed unlikely that Cancelo would hit even greater heights in the following season.

However, the Portuguese international once again consistently demonstrated his importance to Pep Guardiola’s side at both ends of the pitch in what was yet another stellar individual campaign.

Cancelo missed just six matches across City’s 60-game season, starting in all but one of those appearances.

But while he formed a key component of the meanest defence in the English top flight, it was Cancelo’s attacking output which set him apart from many of his Premier League peers.

Only Kevin De Bruyne, Gabriel Jesus and Phil Foden provided more assists in all competitions during 2021/22 for City, with the defender even grabbing three in one match against Club Brugge.

The tendency for City’s full-backs to drop into central areas also meant that those assists came from all over the pitch and were often of supreme quality, firmly establishing Cancelo’s reputation as one of our finest technicians.

In successive Premier League matches against Manchester United and Everton, the Portuguese perfectly demonstrated the extent of his repertoire – beginning with a teasing ball into the back post at Old Trafford which evaded Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw, but not Bernardo Silva.

Two weeks later at the Etihad Stadium, Raheem Sterling was the beneficiary as he volleyed home an exquisite trivela pass from Cancelo into the Everton net beyond a bemused Jordan Pickford.

If the finish from the winger was impressive, the ball to carve open a stubborn visiting rearguard was truly sensational.

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What they said

“He’s been outstanding. He’s assisting and scoring goals himself and for me he’s the best full-back, in terms of creating stuff, and how important he is to the team.

“Any player in the world would be proud of that goal (against Newcastle). He pops up in all positions on the pitch.

“Nine times out of 10 he tends to start every single game - it shows how much Pep trusts him.

“The form he’s showing this season in either full-back position, he’s right up there (with the best in the world).”

Paul Dickov described Joao Cancelo as one of the best full-backs in the world as part of our Matchday Live coverage following City’s 4-0 win at Newcastle in December 2021.

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