Kyle Walker has established himself as one of the best full-backs in the Premier League but, in leaving Tottenham for Manchester City, he's taking a gamble and England fans must hope it pays off, says Max Liu...
"City are [2.96] favourites to win the league in 2017/18 and there's every chance Guardiola will come good. If he fails a second time, though, he will be sacked and City will once again be an unstable club."
Tottenham have agreed to sell Kyle Walker to Manchester City for £50 million with another £3m potentially being paid to the club in add-ons. The England right-back, who joined Spurs from Sheffield United in 2009, will have a medical at City on Friday. City released two full-backs - Bacary Sagna and Pablo Zabaleta - at the end of last season, so they needed to recruit at least one this summer. Pep Guardiola had thought Dani Alves would join from Juventus but the Brazilian eventually opted for Paris Saint German instead.
For Walker, who has impressed for Spurs over the past two seasons and was one of England best performers at Euro 2016, the fee is flattering and the chance to work with Guardiola enormously appealing. But, having seen the transfer of 34-year-old Alves fall through, Walker knows he was Guardiola's second choice. So how will Walker feel about that?
It's difficult to think of an English player whose career has been improved by going to City in recent years. The jury is still out on whether Raheem Sterling will be a success at the Etihad Stadium. After a poor first season in 2015/16, he appeared to be thriving under Guardiola last autumn but things went awry for Sterling and City fairly soon afterwards. England defender John Stones' first season for City followed a similar pattern, with early impressive performances overshadowed by poor form later on.
Prior to that there are the likes of Jack Rodwell, Adam Johnson and Scott Sinclair who went to City as promising youngsters but left as damaged goods with only a handful of appearances to their names. Ever since the big money rolled into City in 2008, the Etihad has been a graveyard for young English talent. Even those English players who stayed at City for several seasons, such as James Milner and Gareth Barry, would probably have played more and better football elsewhere.
At 27, Walker goes to City with nearly 200 Premier League appearances to his name so he should fare better than some of his English predecessors. Unlike them, he should benefit from Guardiola's tutelage and could become one of the best attacking full-backs in the world. He's probably approaching his peak but, for a defender, he' still fairly young and City can feasibly expect him to perform at the top level well into his thirties.
But what if City struggle again this season? Finishing fourth last term meant Guardiola's first season was a failure. City are [2.96] favourites to win the league in 2017/18 and there's every chance Guardiola will come good. If he fails a second time, though, he will be sacked and City will once again be an unstable club. That would be bad news for Walker.
As for Spurs, they look to have a ready-made replacement for Walker in Kieran Trippier. The Walker money probably means Pochettino can strengthen his squad and see off Manchester United's interest in Eric Dier. In Pochettino, Spurs have arguably the Premier League's most exciting manager and their titles odds [11.0] look generous. It would be no surprise to see Spurs win a Season Match Bet with City, as they have done for the past two seasons.
With the 2018 World Cup only a year away, England fans have every reason to hope that Walker nails down the right-back spot at City and builds on his excellent form of the past couple of seasons. If he does that he will have succeeded where many English City players of the past decade failed.