Manchester City have been the most dominant force in English football since Pep Guardiola arrived in 2016. But they’ve not been afraid to let some big-name players go in that time.
The Catalan coach had won six league titles in his seven years in charge of Barcelona and Bayern Munich and he’s kept up that relentless pursuit of silverware with five Premier League titles in seven full seasons in England.
The squad is now almost unrecognisable to that which Guardiola inherited from Manuel Pellegrini, with a number of their ex-players shining elsewhere after waving goodbye.
We’ve put together a brilliant XI of players that have been sold by City during Guardiola’s time in charge. We’ve arranged them in a 4-3-3 formation.
GK: James Trafford
Burnley elected to sign the highly-rated young ‘keeper to usurp fellow City academy graduate Ante Muric between the sticks.
The 21-year-old doesn’t have a great deal of experience at the top level, having previously played out on loan at Accrington Stanley and Bolton Wanderers, but he underlined his frightening potential with a starring role in England Under-21’s European Championship triumph in the summer.
Trafford is yet to catch fire as the Clarets have made a stuttering start to 2023-24. But we expect him to come good under Vincent Kompany’s guidance.
RB: Pedro Porro
The Spaniard joined City from sister club Girona back in 2019, but he never actually made an appearance under Guardiola and was frequently loaned out before being sold to Sporting Lisbon for a modest fee.
Porro shone in Portugal and has since returned to England. He made a somewhat unconvincing start at Tottenham but looks a player transformed for Ange Postecoglou’s table-toppers.
CB: Aymeric Laporte
Arguably one of the best centre-backs in Europe on his day, Laporte was once a vital player for City but fell to the periphery in his final season.
“It has lasted five-and-a-half unforgettable years. Plenty of memories that I will keep forever close to my heart,” said Laporte in a goodbye statement.
“From trophies to setbacks, victories to injuries, it’s all been part of my journey, and I’m grateful for absolutely every moment that shaped me into who I am today.”
It’s a bit of a shame that the defender has elected to join the Saudi Pro League when he’d still have plenty to offer at the top level. He remains one of the first names on the teamsheet for Spain.
Stop that Gavi and Laporte. pic.twitter.com/FfvPGB1kzB
— Stop That Football (@stopthatfooty) October 16, 2023
CB: Nicolas Otamendi
Guardiola is unlikely to look back at losing Otamendi with any regrets. City have been exceptional defensively with Ruben Dias stepping in.
But Otamendi has kicked on and proven there’s life after City, having won the Primeira Liga with Benfica and World Cup with Argentina.
One or two moments notwithstanding, the chest-beating centre-back was superb in Qatar.
LB: Oleksandr Zinchenko
“I know the player really well, he’s an exceptional footballer and he is someone that is going to bring as well another competitive edge to that dressing room,” Mikel Arteta said after Zinchenko’s signing was confirmed in the summer of 2020.
The Ukrainian arrived at the Emirates with four Premier League titles under his belt and that experience proved vital in Arteta’s Gunners making giant leaps forward in 2022-23.
DM: Romeo Lavia
The Belgian midfielder made just two cup appearances under Guardiola for City.
He left in the summer of 2022 in search of first-team experience and quickly established himself as one of the best young prospects in the country at an otherwise shambolic, relegation-doomed Southampton side.
Saints made a massive £38million profit when they sold him to Chelsea a year later.
In hindsight, Guardiola would have fared better not signing Kalvin Phillips and putting faith in the youngster instead.
CM: Douglas Luiz
Another name you might not realise worked under Guardiola – which might be because he barely did. He spent two years on City’s books but never made an appearance and was loaned out to Girona before being sold to Aston Villa for £15million.
Fast forward four years and the Brazilian is arguably one of the best midfielders in the Premier League and a vital cog for Unai Emery’s high-flying Villa.
FWL: Raheem Sterling
Only Ederson and Kevin De Bruyne have made more appearances under Guardiola, and only Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero have scored more goals for his teams.
Sterling was just short of 300 matches under Guardiola, but he was moved on in the summer of 2022 as part of a major shake-up.
“Everyone wants to feel wanted, football is no different,” Sterling has since explained.
“When you play your heart out, sacrifice some of your kids’ birthdays, and then get treated in a certain way, it’s disappointing.
“At the time I was fuming, raging, but it’s gone, it’s in the past and I can only focus on the present, which is now, here at Chelsea, and the opportunity I’ve got here to go out and showcase my talents once again.”
🏴 Raheem Sterling
🇺🇦 Oleksandr Zinchenko
🇧🇷 Gabriel Jesus
Pep Guardiola doesn’t regret allowing the trio to leave for rivals as he believes they did so much for Manchester City that they deserved to make that decision. pic.twitter.com/yRWTbLjOl8
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) October 29, 2022
CAM: Cole Palmer
Another academy sale that made Man City’s balance sheet look extra healthy, Palmer has hit the ground running at Chelsea.
The 21-year-old is linking up well with Sterling already and appears to be relishing the opportunity to play regular football under Mauricio Pochettino.
An outside contender for Gareth Southgate’s Euro 2024 squad?
FWR: Leroy Sane
The German winger’s move to Bayern Munich was delayed for a year after he suffered anterior cruciate ligament damage in the 2019 Community Shield.
Prior to that, he was one of the most electric forwards in the country, but he’s taken his time to get back to that level.
But Sane has won the Bundesliga title in each of his three seasons with the Bavarians and now – working under Thomas Tuchel, linking up with Harry Kane – there’s a sense that he’s finally back to his very best.
He’s been a joy to watch this season.
ST: Gabriel Jesus
“There was a Champions League game, PSG, at home, in which he put Zinchenko as a false 9. Crazy thing,” Jesus reminisced in a recent interview.
“The day before, he didn’t even use [Zinchenko] in training, he had put me in as a striker. … Zinchenko even joked with me: ‘that day I felt bad for you.'”
The Brazilian cried at Guardiola’s decision to omit him and decided there and then his time at City was over.
Like Zinchenko, he’s since linked back up with Arteta and looks a natural fit for the Gunners’ fluid attack.