In 2016, history was made as Pep Guardiola joined Manchester City in a bid to conquer the beast that is the Premier League. Five league titles later, it’s fair to say he’s done exactly that.
Some seven years on, Guardiola has taken City from a great team with unlimited resources to a truly elite one, transforming their style of play and influencing the way the club operates on footballing terms to no end.
Clinching a third successive Premier League title means they are the only team to do so after Manchester United, and is the first step in a potential continental treble.
So, amid all the dizzying domestic success he has achieved with City, how much has his squad changed from that very first starting XI against Sunderland on the opening day of the 2016-17 campaign, and what happened to those 11 players?
GK – Willy Caballero
The Spaniard briefly became number one under Guardiola with Joe Hart suddenly frozen out, but dropped back to number two status following the signing of Claudio Bravo. He didn’t work out, though, and Caballero would again become first choice before the season was over.
He left for free at the end of the season and signed for Chelsea, where he would eventually be a part of the squad that beat City in the 2021 Champions League final. The veteran Spaniard is currently on the books at relegated Southampton, but is set to become a free agent once again.
RB – Bacary Sagna
The 2016-17 season would prove to be Sagna’s last in a City shirt, after signing for the club in 2014 from Arsenal.
Sagna struggled to find a club upon the expiry of his contract in 2017, eventually signing for Serie A strugglers Benevento in January 2018. He would retire in 2019 after a stint in MLS with the Montreal Impact.
CB – John Stones
Stones signed for City in Guardiola’s first summer at the helm in a bid to help them achieve the more progressive, total football style he was keen to build.
Seven years on, Stones is one of the most important members of the team and perhaps one of the best in the world. Playing an increasingly important role throughout 2022-23, Pep seemingly trusts the Yorkshireman with his life.
CB – Aleksandar Kolarov
Very highly regarded by the club and its fans, Kolarov was also let go at the end of Guardiola’s first season at City.
The versatile Serbian enjoyed a positive spell in Italy after that, during the final years of his career, firstly back in Rome but this time with Roma, before signing for Inter in 2020. He helped the Nerazzurri to the Scudetto in 2020-21, before retiring a year later.
LB – Gael Clichy
Another former Arsenal full-back, another player ousted at the end of Guardiola’s first season.
Clichy went from City to Istanbul Basaksehir, the sacred home of all declining Premier League footballers. He actually spent three years in Turkey, though, helping them to their first ever Turkish Super Lig title in the process. Now 37, he plays for Swiss outfit Servette.
CM – Fernandinho
Under the guise of Guardiola, Fernandinho blossomed into perhaps the best defensive midfielder on the planet – and certainly the best at evading yellow cards. It’s an art that needs to be appreciated.
The Brazilian went from great to excellent as time went on at City, giving them a stable base in midfield and always turning up in big games. He left in 2022 to return to his home country with former club Athletico Paranaense, where he has since helped them to another state championship and another Copa Libertadores final.
CM – David Silva
In similar circumstances to Fernandinho, Silva developed into a reliable veteran for City as the years progressed, playing a key role as a positionally fluid creator and allowing Guardiola to implement his footballing philosophies effectively.
Undoubtedly a club legend, he left in 2020 to return to Spain after a decade in Manchester, but not without making the PFA Team of the Year. The 37-year-old is still at Real Sociedad, and now has a statue outside the Etihad Stadium.
CM – Kevin De Bruyne
De Bruyne arrived to Manchester a year before Guardiola, with the transfer being heavily criticised due to the Belgian failing to make the grade at Chelsea. We’re not naming names, but how wrong they were.
Under Guardiola, the Belgian has continually unlocked new levels of creativity, influence and ability, with his peak now probably eclipsing that of Silva’s before him. De Bruyne has stepped up in importance tremendously during his peak, with the old guard out of the way, and has become City’s leader in their pursuit of the threepeat and possibly the treble.
— Kevin De Bruyne (@KevinDeBruyne) May 20, 2023
RW – Raheem Sterling
Costing City an eye-watering £49million at the time in 2015, Sterling shone bright under the early years of Guardiola at City, but faded in importance in later iterations.
Key to them winning back-to-back league titles from 2017 to 2019, he eventually left for Chelsea in 2022 in search of more regular game time. It’s not quite gone as he’d hoped since, with Sterling’s debut season for the Blues coinciding with a complete shambles of a campaign. The positive, though, is that it can’t really get any worse.
ST – Sergio Aguero
“We cannot replace him,” Claimed a tearful Guardiola when discussing Aguero’s departure. You filthy liar, Pep. Shameless.
Many worried that City’s record scorer might not hit if off with Guardiola, but he certainly did, retaining his importance to the team. He eventually left for Barcelona in 2021, but was forced to retire at the end of that year following medical advice after suffering a cardiac arrhythmia.
“We cannot replace him.”
An emotional Pep Guardiola on the legacy of Sergio Aguero pic.twitter.com/I2ceqmmM1f
— FootballJOE (@FootballJOE) May 23, 2021
LW – Nolito
A rare miss on the recruitment front for Guardiola, Nolito was signed for just £13.8million in the summer Pep joined the club.
He would score his first goal for the club and assist just three days on from his Premier League debut in a Champions League play-off, but truthfully never looked a good fit for English football, was unsettled the entire time and left the following summer to return to Spain. Now 36, the winger plays in the Spanish second tier for Ibiza.