Tottenham are reportedly interested in signing Valencia right-back Joao Cancelo this summer – but what do we know about him and how does he compare to Kieran Trippier?
Cancelo is a 23-year-old, five-cap Portugal international who has been plying his trade with Valencia for the last three seasons.
He began his career at Benfica after joining their youth ranks aged 14 but made only one senior league appearance for the club, which came shortly before his 20th birthday against Porto after the title had already been secured.
Despite seemingly being destined to replace Maxi Pereira as Benfica’s starting right-back, Cancelo, a client of Jorge Mendes, was parked at Valencia on a season-long deal in summer 2014. A steady debut season in La Liga saw Los Che pay Benfica 15million euros in 2015, since when Cancelo has continued to make steady progress.
In his 90 appearances in all competitions, Cancelo has demonstrated his versatility, filling in at left-back on occasion and playing in every role along the right flank. In fact, one of Gary Neville’s first changes during his ill-fated spell at the Mestella was to shift Cancelo forward from his right-back role to play in a more more advanced position.
Neville, apparently, identified Cancelo as a future Barcelona right-back whenever Dani Alves would eventually leave the Nou Camp.
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Replacing Dani Alves has been a regular theme whenever Cancelo has been discussed over the last couple of seasons.
Barça have struggled to fill the Brazilian’s boots since he left for Juventus last summer and they have again been named among Cancelo’s potential suitors.
But now Juve have lost Alves to PSG, the Serie A champions are said to have identified Cancelo as their preferred replacement for a fee of around £25million, which to Valencia would represent a 100 per cent profit in two season.
Tottenham have also now seemingly entered the race, with reports on Monday suggesting Mauricio Pochettino is keen to make Cancelo the club’s first summer signing having watched him closely during Portugal’s European Under-21 Championships campaign.
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Spurs sold Kyle Walker to Manchester City for a fee that could rise to £50million, but that money has remained unspent, and the England defender’s exit has left Pochettino light on options down the right.
Kieran Trippier looked certain to start the season as right-back or right wing-back, depending on which formation Pochettino plans to employ at Newcastle next weekend, but the former Burnley defender sustained an ankle injury during the friendly win over Juventus on Saturday.
That could leave Pochettino with Kyle Walker-Peters as his only specialist right-back, and the manager admits “it’s too much today” for the 20-year-old to come in on a regular basis.
Cancelo appears to be ideally suited to Pochettino’s requirements, as a versatile wide player who can offer as much in attack as defence.
But with Juve lurking and concerns over Trippier’s short-term fitness, Cancelo may have become a more immediate priority for the Tottenham boss than he may have liked.
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Trippier will turn 27 shortly after the start of the season, but despite being almost four years Cancelo’s senior, the Tottenham defender has less top-flight experience. The Portugal international has 73 La Liga appearances under his belt, compared to Trippier’s 56 in the Premier League, with only six of those coming last season as Walker’s understudy.
Pochettino will appreciate that Trippier understands by now exactly what is expected of him, but statistically there is little to suggest that Cancelo could not quickly settle.
From an attacking viewpoint, Cancelo made four assists in a struggling Valencia team, only one fewer than Walker despite a playing time deficit of 280 minutes. To Trippier’s credit, he matched Walker’s five assists, despite enjoying only one-fifth of the playing time.
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Cancelo notched one goal, while Walker and Trippier both failed to net in the Premier League. Interestingly, Cancelo has three goals in five senior Portual appearances, though those goals came during thrashings of Gibraltar, Andorra and Faroe Islands.
Defensively, the stand-out statistic involves interceptions: Cancelo made 2.1 per game, almost double the number Trippier made (1.1) and better than Walker (1.26).
Cancelo and Trippier’s tackle success rate was very similar, with Trippier edging it 76 per cent compared to 75, with Walker winning 71 per cent of the tackles he attempted.
There are similarities between Cancelo and Walker when the £50million man was making his way as a 23-year-old. Cancelo’s strengths lie as a marauding wing-back, while positionally, he has plenty of room for development in the defensive sense, which is perhaps part of the reason Neville opted to free him of some defensive responsibility during their time working together.
Some still question Walker’s defensive instincts, but many modern coaches like Pep Guardiola prioritise their attacking contribution.
Pochettino, however, prefers more of a balance. Cancelo and Trippier between them could cover all the bases, while offering the Spurs manager perhaps more options than he had at his disposal last season.
The first thing many fans do upon hearing news of a potential signing is check their stats on Football Manager. In this case, Spurs supporters will be pleased to learn Cancelo is rated highly on FM17, with acceleration (18/20) and flair (16/20) his top attributes.
He is also rated at 15/20 in crossing, dribbling, technique, agility, natural fitness and pace, suggesting Spurs will be getting the archetypal modern full-back should they complete a deal this summer.
His defensive stats are less impressive, however, with marking (7/20), concentration (7/20), heading (8/20), positioning (9/20) and tackling (10/20) among his weaknesses according to the much-trusted game.
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