Is Nathan Aké worth 41 million? The short answer is yes.
Manchester City have recently signed Nathan Aké from Bournemouth for 41 million pounds. It is hardly surprising that Aké chose to leave the Cherries following their relegation. A player of his calibre should not play at the Championship, and it was only a matter of time before other Premier League teams swooped in to sign him. Before the end of the season, rumours began to circulate that Manchester United and Chelsea were interested in the defender. Both clubs have had issues with their defence, and Aké would have been a valuable reinforcement for either club, especially since Bournemouth’s relegation meant he could leave on the cheap. An offer around the region of 25 million pounds was expected from Manchester United. However, in the last hour, their noisy neighbours swooped in and bid a pretty hefty 41 million pounds to thwart off any potential competition. However, it begs the question as to whether City overpaid for the defender.
Before diving into the main question, I think it’s essential to look at why Aké was highly sought after by City. Like Manchester United and Chelsea, albeit to a lesser extent, the Citizens have issues in defence. Unlike Chelsea and Manchester United, City have a world-class centre-back in Aymeric Laporte. However, they have no one of sufficient quality to match him. In other words, no one has effectively replaced Vincent Kompany since his departure at the end of last season. Nicolás Otamendi is past his prime and will probably only feature sporadically next term. John Stones has fallen out of favour with Guardiola and a move away seems best. A reunion with David Moyes at West Ham and a move to Leeds United are just some of the possibilities. Eric García is highly promising but has recently conceded that he is looking for a move away and intends to run down the final year of his contract if he fails to seek a move away from the Etihad this transfer window. Hence, Aké was brought in to shore up a dwindling defence, but only time will tell if he can truly become Kompany’s heir.
Personally, I think the Dutch international is an excellent addition to any defence. Aké has demonstrated how good he is defensively at Bournemouth. However, I don’t think he’s at the level of Kompany in his prime. He could certainly reach that level in due course, but the City hierarchy does not seem to believe he’s ready to assume that mantle just yet. For some time now, there have been reports that Manchester City are targeting Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly. If Koulibaly does link up with City, Guardiola would surely opt for a Laporte-Koulibaly centre-back partnership with Aké providing cover. Many have argued that City have grossly overpaid for the Dutchman. One person who firmly believes this is Paul Merson. Merson recently has mentioned how he was shocked by City’s acquisition of the defender. He believes that Aké is not the right choice to propel them back to the league’s summit because “Bournemouth got relegated and they let in about a million goals.” I disagree entirely with Merson’s assessment and believe that 40 million pounds is a reasonable figure for Aké.
Well for starters, let’s look at what Manchester City are getting for that price. A 25-year-old who has played reasonably well in the highest level for both club and country. Bournemouth may be relegated this season, but you cannot blame Aké for that. In fact, the defender was out injured for a lengthy spell. When he has played, he has been mostly reliable. Sure, Bournemouth have let in a ton of goals, but is Aké to be blamed for all of them? If anything, his marvelous zonal awareness and tackling ability have helped prevent Bournemouth from letting in more goals. On top of that, he is very good on the ball, and while he still needs some work to polish this aspect, he can pass from the back.
Also, people always focus on the fact that Bournemouth got relegated and this, therefore, means that Aké’s value significantly drops. However, many fail to realize two things here: the fact that other clubs were interested and that the market value for defenders is significantly inflated. With Manchester United and Chelsea both seemingly interested, it was important for City to avoid getting themselves into an unnecessary bidding war. They paid a reasonable amount for the player that they wanted. Furthermore, the current market value for good defenders has skyrocketed. Harry Maguire’s 85-million-pound move from Leicester to Man United is the perfect example of this. In relation to that, Aké’s transfer fee makes sense.
I think the real underlying issue behind this move is that Manchester City somehow managed to overturn their 2-year European ban, and this move appears to be a blatant attempt to show the rest of the world their financial muscle. Yes, they were imposed with a fine of 10 million Euros for failing to cooperate with investigators, but really what is 10 million Euros to a club like Manchester City? Even though I believe that City haven’t overpaid for Aké, I do think that they are showing the rest of the footballing world that they can do whatever they want (and yes, it is infuriating).
Is Nathan Aké a good signing? Of course, he is. Even if a big-name defender like Koulibaly arrives, Aké will still feature for the first-team. His ability to play as left-back and a defensive midfielder could prove to be handy for City as well. As with every transfer, there is always an element of risk involved. It is possible that Aké turns out to be a flop. I mean, just take a look at John Stones – he came in and did well initially but now is a shadow of his former self. What I can say for sure is this: the Dutchman’s arrival at City is sure to turn the cogs in other transfer deals. United and Chelsea will have to look elsewhere for defensive reinforcements and perhaps initiate transfer merry-go-rounds. For Bournemouth, they lose an integral member of their squad – someone who has characterized their defence for the past 5 years. The Cherries are bound to lose a ton more players, and their rebuild has just begun.
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