Manchester City’s defensive struggles are well documented this season. Their recent win over Leicester City shouldn’t be a distraction, as Pep Guardiola’s men are 11 points off the top spot. They are closer to the fifth position than to the first spot. And amidst these defensive concerns, interest in Unai Nunez has come up.
FootballInsider claim that Man City aren’t the only team that want Nunez. Bayern Munich are keen on him and so are Everton. All these clubs have been keeping an eye on him consistently in recent weeks. That isn’t a surprise, considering how Nunez has been growing in stature.
Not just that, but Man City know how good defenders from Athletic Bilbao can be. With Aymeric Laporte out injured, City have let in 20 goals this season. At this point last season, the Citizens had let in only 12 goals in the Premier League. That is a reflection of how much they miss Laporte.
As for Nunez, he isn’t exactly a first-choice central defender at Bilbao. Inigo Martinez and Yeray Alvarez are the club’s first-choice central defensive partnership, with Nunez playing second-choice to one of them. In the Basque club’s recent draw against Real Madrid, Nunez did start but he did that alongside Inigo and Yeray as the club used a 5-3-2 shape.
It saw Nunez make 11 clearances, winning two tackles. In all competitions this season, the has played seven times for Bilbao. While he isn’t a regular now, Nunez was a regular in the 2017-18 season when Inigo came to the club. He played 33 La Liga games that season, scoring once. That was his first season of senior-level football at the club and he was only a teenager then.
That season, he won 2.2 tackles per game and also made 2 interceptions per game. He also made 4.6 clearances per game. That’s a sign of how good he can be on his day, when playing regular football.
That season, he had a passing percentage of 82.3- a little over 1 percent less than Laporte himself. While Laporte played 51.2 passes per game, Nunez played 44.4 passes per game. That is a small difference, but Nunez isn’t meant to be as good as Laporte anyway.
The Frenchman is one of the best defenders to have been at Bilbao in this decade. And Nunez isn’t. So those comparisons aren’t suitable enough. And considering City need only a second-choice defender, Nunez will make sense for them.
A recent interview will show how Nunez is mentally. He said (via InsideAthletic):
“I want to succeed at Athletic. It’s the team of my dreams, but I want to play as much as possible. I can’t say that Yeray and Iñigo don’t deserve to be starters. They’re incredible players but I think I can be at their level. It’s an uncomfortable and difficult situation. I will fight my best to win a starting role and convince the coach.”
That mentality is very similar to what Guardiola wants. Nunez always pushes to be better and never settles for what he currently is. That is exactly what Guardiola looks for in players.
He is good on the ball and can be no-nonsense on his day. His numbers from the 2017-18 season show that. He can be a very good ball-winner and play consistent passes too. That is all City need in a defender who can play when Laporte is out injured.
Nunez has a release clause of £25.7 million and that could well be the main attraction for potential suitors. He will easy to get and can play as an effective second-choice to the regulars. His injury record isn’t troublesome and he’s Spanish, having already made his debut for the Spanish national side.
It is about expectations. Because Laporte could well be back in action in February or March. City have Fernandinho playing as a central defender alongside one of John Stones or Nicolas Otamendi. Their failures to replace Vincent Kompany has brought out this situation.
Getting Nunez will allow Fernandinho to play in his preferred position. City won’t shell out big money and that is the need of the day, as January approaches.