Football News

Manchester United ignored my advice to sign Joao Cancelo from Valencia, says Gary Neville

By Ben Green

Published: 18:25, 9 November 2021

Gary Neville has revealed Manchester United ignored his advice to sign Joao Cancelo when he had the Portuguese full-back as a youngster during his time as Valencia manager.

Cancelo has been one of the most consistent performers for rivals Manchester City this season and put in a man-of-the-match display against United at the weekend.

Pep Guardiola’s men won the first Manchester derby of 2021/22 with a 2-0 triumph at Old Trafford, in which the visitors registered 68% possession and restricted their age-old adversaries to just one shot on target.

Cancelo, for his part, was defensively resilient, but also threatening in attack, having a hand in both of City’s goals, with his first-half delivery taking a wicked deflection off Eric Bailly past David de Gea, before he set up Bernardo Silva with a tantalising cross.

Following that display, Neville revealed how he urged his former club to sign the versatile full-back when he was managing him during his short-lived stint at Valencia in 2016, also putting now-Everton midfielder Andre Gomes in the shop window.

“I love him as a lad,” Neville told his Sky Sports podcast. “I loved him when he was out there. There was a vulnerability about him as he was so young. 

“He’s so hard on himself, in training he used to be his (own) critic. If he made a mistake, he’d throw his arms on the ground and start cursing himself and I used to say to him ‘give yourself a break’.

“I had him as a very young player at Valencia but you could just see exceptional talent. I made calls back to England, you could imagine which club I’m talking about, saying ‘if you’d ever take a young player, he’s one you’d take’.

“Him and Andre Gomes I felt were exceptional talents that could come and grace the Premier League.”

Following Neville’s dismissal at the Mestalla, Cancelo stuck around for one more season before relocating to Inter Milan on loan, and then ultimately making a permanent switch to Italy after Juventus splurged £35m on his signature three years ago.

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His time in Turin lasted only one campaign, but not without its successes, as he completed a Serie A and Supercoppa Italiana double before City came in with a £60m offer. Since turning out for City, Cancelo has gone from strength to strength and now forms a very crucial part of Guardiola’s defence.

Last season he earned a place in the PFA Premier League Team of the Year after he helped City wrestle the Premier League title back off Liverpool, but despite his stellar work in the North West, Neville admitted he had initial skepticisms about Cancelo when City paid such an enormous fee for him.

He added: “The education Joao had in Italy would have been a good one for him.

“Then City paid £60m for him and the only doubt I had was the fact whether City needed to pay that money for a full-back again because they had players there.”

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