Football Features

Josko Gvardiol transfer latest: Six things we know about the Man City target

By Ben Green

Published: 17:59, 28 June 2023

Josko Gvardiol is one of the most sought-after centre-backs in world football, and he could be on the move this summer.

Having burst through an academy famed for producing Luka Modric and Mateo Kovacic, RB Leipzig would have been optimistic when they landed Dinamo Zagreb’s latest gem in 2020. That judgement has proven correct, with Gvardiol emerging as the latest defensive titan in world football.

A breakthrough 2021/22 in the Bundesliga saw the precocious force adapt seamlessly to the rigours and physicality of one of Europe’s best leagues. He played with a maturity and aggression that belied his tender years, and it quickly became evident that he was a star-in-the-making.

That reputation kicked on in 2022/23, and it has done so at international level as well, where he has already racked up 21 caps at the age of 21. He is now the subject of interest from top clubs across the continent, and it appears as though RB Leipzig will once again lose one of their cherished assets.

 

Who is interested in Josko Gvardiol?

Although the subject of interest from most of Europe’s top clubs, Gvardiol’s name has been most prominently associated with Manchester City this summer.

As things currently stand, the two clubs are in tense negotiations over a eye-watering package that could make Gvardiol the most expensive defender ever.

City recently confirmed the signing of Kovacic, and they will now be desperate to land his compatriot to reinforce their defensive options.

Aymeric Laporte’s future continues to be a source of intrigue and uncertainty, with the Spain international expected to leave this summer, opening the door for the left-footed Gvardiol to come in and form possibly Europe’s best centre-back partnership with the right-footed Ruben Dias.


Josko Gvardiol transfer specials: To sign for before 3rd September 2023  Sky Bet
Man City 1/3
To Stay at RB Leipzig 9/4
Bayern Munich 16/1
Arsenal 20/1
Real Madrid 22/1
Chelsea 25/1
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How much could Gvardiol cost?

According to The Times, Gvardiol has a £97m release clause, but the club would be willing to settle for a fee in the region of £87m

That is perhaps why City haven’t yet landed their main defensive target, as they try to haggle that fee down even further.

Harry Maguire remains the most expensive defender ever at £80m when he joined rivals Manchester United, and it could be the case that that is broken this summer.

When does Gvardiol’s contract run out?

RB Leipzig won’t be at pains to sanction a Gvardiol sale if his contract situation is anything to go by. The Croat has a deal that runs until 2027, so there is no financial pressure on that front. The Saxons, though, do reportedly need to balance their books in order to comply with UEFA’s financial fair play guidelines, so they would perhaps be more receptive to offers this summer.

What has Gvardiol said?

Gvardiol was reportedly close to joining Chelsea last summer, but a move ultimately collapsed. That failed transfer had a mental impact on the defender, who said in February that he “really struggled” after seeing the proposed bid fall through.

He told The Times: “I was really confused because one month before the window starts I was upstairs with the sporting director and he says, ‘Yeah Josko, we are not going to sell you, we need you, we believe in you,’ and I was like ok I am fine with this, I can stay here, I like it here, all I need is to work on myself, to play, to win something else.

“It was like this until the last two days. My agent called me and said that Chelsea is extremely interested and, of course, you definitely think about a serious offer from a huge club like Chelsea. Leipzig said they didn’t want to sell me. In the end, I really struggled with that decision but we didn’t make an agreement. It is what it is. I am here and I am fine with this because my idea had been to stay here. One season was not enough. This is my second season, even one more season would be great but we will see.”


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In January, Gvardiol revealed that it has been his dream since childhood to play in the Premier League.

“They [Chelsea] did not give up,” Gvardiol said to Danas on Chelsea’s move last summer. “But it was agreed that we would go for the winter. Winter has come, so we need to see what and how to proceed, but it’s okay, there’s still plenty of time, we’ll see.

“Since I was a child, I always gravitated towards the English league. We all know what kind of league it is. I don’t know if I’m mature enough and ready for that league. We will see, when I feel that this is the moment, that I have crossed a certain level and reached the border in Germany, then I will look further.”

What have RB Leipzig said?

RB Leipzig boss Marco Rose said back in February that he expects Gvardiol to remain at the club next season following his side’s match against Man City in the Champions League.

“Josko Gvardiol will be an RB Leipzig player next season as well,” said Rose. “I am the coach and I am asking for that. He is happy here. He said he wants to play in the Premier League but he didn’t say when.”


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How could RB Leipzig replace Gvardiol?

“Gvardiol is the best central defender in the world. He’s so mature. The way he plays, with the grace he controls the ball – it’s amazing,” Croatia manager Zlatko Dalic has previously stated, so it’s unlikely Leipzig could directly ‘replace’ him given he’s the “best” in the eyes of his international head coach.

However, there are a number of alternatives who could provide a similar stylistic blueprint. Gvardiol is renowned for his ball-playing capabilities and aggression. Standing at 6ft 1in, he isn’t the most physically imposing of centre-backs, but he manipulates his body well to outmuscle most opponents.

As a left-footed centre-back who can bring the ball forward and pick out laser-guided passes, this is where he is more sought after. He is a modern defender in every regard, and hence, Guardiola’s interest. Looking at similar left-footers, there are a few options for Leipzig.

Goncalo Inacio fits the brief almost too well. He is the same age, height, foot and position as Gvardiol. On top of that, he is perhaps the best interpretation of a modern ball-playing centre-back with his crisp passing range and confidence in possession.

Stuttgart’s Hiroki Ito is another interesting name to look out for. The 24-year-old made the third-most final third entries (286) of any centre-back in the Bundesliga in 2022/23, with Dayot Upamecano (294) taking the top spot, while he also made the most long passes (364). That’s the sort of distribution that has elevated Gvardiol’s name.

Piero Hincapie also fits the brief with his age of 21, preferred left foot, and modest height, coming in at 6ft for a centre-back. He is highly regarded at Bayer Leverkusen having completed the third-most take-ons of any centre-back in the 2022/23 Bundesliga season (29), combining a slickness and flair on the ball with an aggression that really shored up Xabi Alonso’s backline.

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Most of these signings, though, may prove expensive, so Leipzig could go after someone in the mould of Mohammed Salisu, who is likely to garner attention following Southampton’s relegation from the Premier League. He has generated a very good reputation as a left-footed, ball-playing defender on the South Coast and will be one to watch this summer.

Other stylistic matches include Facundo Medina from Lens, and two that are probably out of reach for Leipzig: Dortmund’s Nico Schlotterbeck and Inter’s Alessandro Bastoni.

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