Manuel Akanji: Man City's answer to Harry Maguire?

Stuart Telford
Stuart Telford
  • 1 Sept 2022 10:49 BST
  • 11 min read
Manuel Akanji, Dortmund, 2021/22

Manchester City have completed a surprise move for Borussia Dortmund centre-back Manuel Akanji.

The 27-year-old Switzerland defender has moved to Man City on a long-term contract from the Bundesliga club and arrived for the relatively cheap price of €19 million due to the fact his contract at BVB had just a year left to run.

Nevertheless, the deal is a strange one given that he was effectively deemed surplus to requirements by the Germans.

Akanji hasn't played a minute of Bundesliga football this season, with Dortmund having signed Germany internationals Niklas Sule and Nico Schlotterbeck from Bayern Munich and Freiburg respectively this summer, adding them to stable of centre-backs which also included Mats Hummels.

Akanji didn't seem to have any takers despite being transfer listed, but with City shorthanded at the back after Aymeric Laporte's knee surgery, Pep Guardiola has decided to bolster his defensive options.

Is Akanji any good?

Until this season, Akanji was a first-team regular at Dortmund, one who helped them to three runners-up finishes behind Bayern Munich over the last four Bundesliga campaigns and lifted the DFB Cup in 2021.

He and Abdou Diallo were imperious together when Dortmund were edged to the title by just two points under Lucien Favre in 2018/19, and it was to the club's detriment when they allowed Diallo to go to Paris Saint-Germain for €32m at the end of that season and re-signed a withering Hummels.

Akanji vs Bundesliga centre-backs: 2021/22

-+ Manuel Akanji

Hummels remains one of the best defenders in the world with the ball at his feet, but pace was never his strong suit and he is now slower than ever at 33. Dortmund haven't come close to dethroning Bayern since.

Even if he had to have one eye on Hummels last season, Akanji still shone on a number of fronts that will appeal to Guardiola, with his 73 passes per game - an average of four of them progressive per 90 - putting him in the upper 90th percentile of players in his position by those measures league-wide.

What about Maguire?

Maguire has been dropped by Manchester United despite being confirmed as club captain by Erik ten Hag this summer. In the two games since, United have stopped the rot, putting in back-to-back wins against Liverpool and Southampton.

Maguire shines in a back three with England, but had 16 errors leading to a goal at the heart of United's back four last season. While he does his best work in a three, Akanji's "problems" started when Dortmund tried to force him into one by crowbarring Hummels into the backline.

Akanji is something of a maths genius with his rapid calculations making for a fun watch on social media, but you don't have to be a whizz to work out that he has a chance of succeeding in Manchester in a way that Maguire could only dream of.