Can Marc Cucurella solve City boss Pep Guardiola's left back problems?

Man City want to add Brighton left back Marc Cucurella to their star-studded ranks after just one season in the Premier League… but is he the solution to Pep Guardiola’s problems with Joao Cancelo and Oleksandr Zinchenko at his disposal?

  • Sportsmail exclusively reported Man City’s interest in Marc Cucurella
  • Cucurella could cost City double the £15.4million that Brighton paid for him
  • The Spanish defender has most ball recoveries of any Premier League full back
  • Defender won Fans’ player of the season and Player of the season for 2021/22

With a seemingly bottomless war chest at his disposal, the surprise following Sportsmail’s exclusive reports that Pep Guardiola is looking to the likes of Brighton & Hove Albion’s Marc Cucurella to fill in the missing pieces of his star-studded squad is understandable.  

But despite a squad being worth in excess of £863million, it is easy to forget that Manchester City are not without weakness, and Guardiola has publicly announced his intention to sign ‘hungry’ players.

City’s failed pursuit of Harry Kane last summer ultimately cast a spotlight on that vacant number nine position at the top of the team sheet, but this was not the only problem area for the reigning Premier League champions.

Marc Cucurella has started 34 games in the Premier League, with one assist and one goal

Guardiola and City have already acted decisively, bringing in Erling Haaland for £51million to address one gaping area of the squad, and now they seem to have identified the solution to another one. 

For the last season Guardiola has been playing without a recognised left back. Yes, Oleksandr Zinchenko and Joao Cancelo have deputised here, the latter frequently to impressive effect, but neither are naturals in this position. 

They have learned to play on City’s left flank in a stringently possession based Guardiola system, but the Catalan manager has been outspoken in his need for a full-time replacement, and Cucurella seems to be as close to a perfect solution as City are likely to find.   

Manchester City signed Erling Haaland for £51million from German side  Borussia Dortmund

Why him?

After a relatively inauspicious £15.4million switch to Brighton from Getafe last summer, Marc Cucurella Saseta, 23, previously described as ‘the next Jordi Alba’, managed just one assist and one goal in 2021/22.

But despite his reputation as one of the most attacking coaches in world football, it is not these stats that will interest Guardiola. What will catch his eye is Cucurella’s 241 possession recoveries – a Premier League high – in 34 matches. After all, you can’t keep the ball if you don’t actually have it.

Whilst Zinchenko and Cancelo have had to learn to play in a Guardiola system, Cucurella graduated from La Masia, Barcelona’s academy which instills in young footballers the tenets of tiki-taka football. It is unlikely then that Guardiola and his staff will have to spend too much time showing him the ropes. 

Guardiola wants to sign young and ‘hungry’ players, with Cucurella, 23, a summer target

And the one thing that Guardiola loves more than players who are willing to devote everything to his play-style, is those who are capable of playing in several positions.

At times this season Cucurella, who is a left back by trade, has been deployed as a left-winger as well as starting against Chelsea as a centre half. 

The £30million that City would have to pay for the Catalan native’s signature can only make him a more enticing prospect, and is by City’s big-spending reputation, something of a bargain.  Does he have the ‘hunger’?

Cucurella and his partner and two children pose in front of London’s iconic Big Ben

Does he have the ‘hunger’?

As a 21-year-old at Barcelona, it would have been tempting to sit back and play a bit-part role in the knowledge that you are probably at the top of the footballing pyramid at one of football’s most illustrious names.

But that wasn’t enough for Cucurella, who after two successful loan spells at Eibar and Getafe, departed on a permanent basis for the latter club to showcase his abilities on a regular basis and earned himself a move to the Premier League through hard work and persistence. 

Although he leads the Premier League statistics for most ball recoveries, he is also an effective attacking outlet with three big chances created, over 3000 minutes played, and 111 crosses over the course of the season highlighting his ability to work hard for his team and make a difference at both ends of the pitch.

Cucurella averages 54.6 passes per game and has 61 clearances in 34 games this season

What has he done?

In 119 games for Eibar and Getafe across three seasons, Cucurella managed six goals and 10 assists. He has also been capped for Spain once, after 26 youth caps and an Olympic silver medal in 2020. And as a native of Alella, Catalonia, he has also been capped by the non-FIFA Catalan side, in a 2-1 win over Venezuela in March 2019.

Cucurella has been a stand out player in a Brighton side looking to register their first ever top-10 finish in the Premier League, with the second highest minutes played at the club, showing an impressive ability to avoid serious injury despite a dynamic play-style.

The Spanish international has quickly endeared himself to the Seagulls fans, and was voted Fans’ Player of the Season at the south-coast side’s end of season awards ceremony. He also bagged the Player of the Season title too. 

Brighton fans have started wearing wigs inspired by Cucurella’s iconic long, curly hairstyle

After winning both awards, Cucurella took to Twitter to thank both fans and the players alike for the ‘honour’.

He said: ‘It is an honour to receive these awards. 

‘Thanks to all my teammates for the help they provided me during the season and to all the fans for the support throughout the year. 

‘It makes me really proud to be part of this great Brighton & Hove Albion family.’

The Spanish left back won both Fans Player of the Season and Player of the Season 2021/22

Will City face competition for his signature?

Cucurella has naturally attracted interest from several Premier League clubs after his breakthrough season, but Brighton are hopeful they can retain his services for at least another year. 

The £30million price tag is enough to deter most clubs beneath the Seagulls in the table, with the obvious exception of Newcastle. With Liverpool settled with Andrew Robertson, and Manchester United undergoing a difficult rebuild, Chelsea are City’s only real rivals in the market. 

And given that Chelsea are undergoing their own period of uncertainty, City will be confident they will be able to get their man.  

City fans will undoubtedly be excited about finally signing a young, hungry, natural left-back who has trained for years under the coaching ideologies that have inspired Guardiola. 

But what makes the deal that much sweeter is the fact that Cucurella’s only goal in the Premier League was his side’s second in the 4-0 thrashing of against arch-rivals Manchester United, and the young Spanish defender was so overcome with emotion that he was reduced to tears. 

Cucurella broke down in tears after scoring his first Brighton goal against Manchester United

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