Is Man City target Josko Gvardiol worth €100m?

Josko Gvardiol is not an individual that can be easily shifted. Lionel Messi found a way of doing it but generally, the Croatian centre-back is in full control on and off the pitch.

After breaking into Dinamo Zagreb’s first team, Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds United launched a hefty bid for the precocious teenager in 2020. Gvardiol was under pressure from his own club to join the Yorkshire outfit but felt it was too soon in his development. Instead, he agreed a deal with RB Leipzig and stayed in Croatia for another season on loan.

Chelsea reportedly tabled a €90m bid for Gvardiol last summer which the defender countered by signing a contract extension at Leipzig. However, Gvardiol has decided that this is the year to join the Premier League.

90min understands personal terms have been agreed with Manchester City but RB Leipzig are demanding a record-breaking €100m fee. Gvardiol knows his worth better than anyone but should City cough up such an eye-watering sum?


Transfer fee

Year signed

Selling club

Buying club

Harry Maguire




Man Utd

Matthijs de Ligt





Virgil van Dijk





Wesley Fofana





Lucas Hernandez



Atletico Madrid

Bayern Munich

Ruben Dias




Man City

Achraf Hakimi





Matthijs de Ligt




Bayern Munich

Marc Cucurella





Joao Cancelo




Man City

Data via Transfermarkt

While their city neighbours hold the current record with the purchase of Harry Maguire in 2019, Manchester City are no strangers to splashing the cash on a defender. Of the 20 most expensive defensive transfers in history, City have signed six of them under Pep Guardiola.

Aymeric Laporte and Joao Cancelo are expected to move on this summer while Benjamin Mendy’s contract has expired and Kyle Walker has drawn admiring glances from Bayern Munich. Of City’s dear half-dozen, only John Stones and Ruben Dias are sure of a spot in next season’s squad.

Virgil van Dijk briefly held the record of the world’s most expensive defender before United were fleeced by Leicester City. Gvardiol idolised the Liverpool centre-back as a teenager and may well line up opposite him in the Premier League after the summer.

Josko Gvardiol

Gvardiol starred for Croatia at the World Cup / Sebastian Frej/MB Media/GettyImages

Gvardiol emerged as City’s top central defensive transfer target as early as April. In the wake of a hugely impressive World Cup – notwithstanding the runaround he was given by Messi in the semi-final – the initial asking price for the Croatia international was floated at around €87m.

However, that figure has since ballooned to €100m. City are adamant they will not crack nine digits and have already shown their willingness to walk away from negotiations this summer. Unlike the Declan Rice saga, where Arsenal’s long-standing interest and eagerness made them favourites, City are the front runners in the race for Gvardiol.

Chelsea haven’t entirely given up hope of nabbing the 21-year-old and Real Madrid are also interested but Gvardiol is not the priority for either side. City are confident they can finalise a deal this summer, with the final fee likely to exceed Maguire’s record sum but come in at under €100m.


Laporte’s impending Etihad exit is one of the reasons why City are so keen on signing Gvardiol, who would serve as a perfect replacement.

Following the arrival of Laporte for a club-record £57m in 2018, Guardiola explained how a naturally left-footed centre-back opens up a raft of new passing angles out from the back. “When you receive to go to the right, you have to go inside, because you want to go to the right foot,” the manager outlined.

“In the left, you go to that side, so it helps us to create this build-up [to the left, and to the right with a diagonal pass]. With the right foot, it is a little bit more complicated.”

Gvardiol’s status “as a left-footer” was also flagged as a bonus upon his arrival at RB Leipzig by the then-sporting director Markus Krosche.

What Gvardiol does to the ball with that trusty left foot is just as important. Playing for a transition-based RB Leipzig team for the past two years, Gvardiol explained: “When I win the ball, my first objective is to look ahead and play the most vertical pass possible.” Even with this direct approach, Gvardiol still posted a creditable 89% pass accuracy last season.

Joško Gvardiol

Josko Gvardiol averaged more passes per game than any other player in the Bundesliga last season / Martin Rose/GettyImages

An innate sense of control helps Gvardiol keep his head amid the fury of a football match. “I guess that calmness and composure I have on the pitch is something I was born with,” he said. “It comes naturally to me.” Gvardiol’s coach at RB Leipzig concurred. “He’s incredibly mature for his age,” Marco Rose reported, “both on and off the ball.”

To underline the range of skills at Gvardiol’s disposal just four years after his senior debut, his former neighbour and youth team coach Vedran Peric argued: “It’s his heading that makes him special.”

There is another debate entirely as to whether any footballer should ever be worth as much as €100m. However, based on the precedent set by previous transfers, that price tag would be value for money if Gvardiol rises above the rest of his peers. According to his national team manager Zlatko Dalic, he already has.

“The way he plays, with the grace he controls the ball, it’s amazing,” Dalic lauded last year. “Gvardiol is the best central defender in the world.”


On this week’s edition of Talking Transfers, part of the 90min podcast network, Scott Saunders is joined by Toby CudworthGraeme Bailey and Sean Walsh to discuss Mason Mount’s impending move to Man Utd, Arsenal’s various deals, Liverpool’s pursuit of Dominik Szoboszlai and more!

If you can’t see this embed, click here to listen to the podcast!

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