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Nolito at Manchester City: Where did it go wrong for the Spaniard?

Wednesday 24th May 2017
Signed as a 29-year-old for £14M, coming off the back of 59 goals scored and created in 83 La Liga starts, big things were expected of Manchester City winger Nolito when he made the switch last summer.

But the ex-Barcelona man and Spanish international has hardly featured for the Sky Blues in the second-half of the season and is rumoured to be leaving the Etihad Stadium just one season into a three-year deal.

So what happened to Nolito?

Sane's rise to prominence saw Nolito phased out

Nolito was a regular in the Manchester City starting XI up until the turn of the year. The former Celta Vigo winger missed just four of City's first 18 Premier League games of the season, two from suspension, one time as an unused substitute and one time being left out of the matchday squad. Manager Pep Guardiola seldom stuck with the same XI game-to-game but Nolito was one player whom he depended upon. That was until an upturn of form from an existing player saw his influence wane.

The 30-year-old scored and created six goals in 601 minutes in the Premier League, but would go on to amass just 178 minutes of football for Manchester City after his last goal in December 2016. Leroy Sane, originally struggling for form after his arrival from Schalke 04, started to get himself among the goals and improve his performances on a weekly basis which led to him and Raheem Sterling operating on the wings over Nolito. And reports soon came from the camp that Nolito wasn't pulling his weight on the training field.

Training grounding performances not good enough

“The manager is rotating, sometimes he plays one player, another time he'll play another. From a selfish standpoint, of course I would like to play in every game. The manager is the one who decides,” said Nolito to Goal in December 2016.

Just two months later and after a period of cameos from the bench, Nolito was told by the club to improve his performances in training if he's to get back into the first-team. A Daily Mail source suggested the winger “had not looked sharp” and Guardiola himself said he would only pick players based on their training performances at that time too.

And this month, Nolito was quoted suggesting he could leave Manchester City in search for more playing time. “When I signed, I knew I wasn't guaranteed to play and my teammates on the wing (Sane & Sterling) are doing very well. Since December I practically haven't played at all and I'm not the type of person to be at a club where I don't play. We'll see what happens. When you don't play much, it becomes a tough season for you. I haven't spoken to Guardiola about the reasons,” reported AS.

Nolito didn't fit with Guardiola's tactic shift

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola was slowly building towards a more youthful and attacking side which allowed creative freedom for the out-and-out wingers to run at the defence and score and create chances. They were also expected to press the opposition high up the pitch and force an error to counter swiftly.

However, Nolito doesn't possess the pace required to provide a threat to sides on the break and he seldom beat his opposite marker as a result. He created just 13 chances in 19 Premier League appearances for Manchester City, making only 10 successful dribbles. His style of play didn't fit with what Guardiola wanted from his wide men and the Spaniard was left out as a result.

He's likely to return to Spain in the summer, potentially to the likes of Real Betis for a fraction of his £15M move the previous year and is expected to take a significant pay-cut too.
Crippy Cooke

Crippy is a long-suffering Aston Villa supporter and weekly football accumulator enthusiast.

Stealing a living, the balding 27-year-old boasts a wealth of writing experience - Telegraph, Independent, Huffington Post, Zoo Magazine, Daily Mail, ITV Football, MSN Sport, Yahoo Sport, London 24 and Bleacher Report.

Total articles: 330

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