With club record signing Ruben Dias heading in the other direction, it was inevitable that the departure of Nicolas Otamendi after five years of service to Manchester City would pass without much fuss.

And the fact that the Argentina international has slipped down Pep Guardiola’s pecking order – and fallen further with the acquisition of Nathan Ake and Dias – makes his leaving all the quieter.

Yet it should be remembered that in Guardiola’s first title season, 2017-18, Otamendi was named in the PFA’s Premier League team of the year, voted by his fellow professionals.

From being a centre back who had never fulfilled his billing as the man to first of all complement and then replace Vincent Kompany, the £31million buy appeared to have been transformed into a top-class defender.

The City hierarchy were quick to claim that, under Guardiola, Otamendi had gone from being a slow defender with a tendency to lunge into rash tackles to being, in their eyes, the best defender in the league.

City did not do a lot of defending in Guardiola’s first title season – their game was all about containment and counter-pressing – but defending in that system was extremely tough, especially for a player like Otamendi, not blessed with natural pace.

Those desperate tackles turned into well-timed ones, and Otamendi appeared to have been told he needed to stay on his feet.

With Kompany’s injury problems giving Guardiola and his medical staff headaches, it was Otamendi who stepped into the breach.

In that season he started 34 of City’s 38 Premier League games and in the Champions League he only missed dead rubber games against Shakhtar Donetsk and Basel.

City racked up a record 100 points in that campaign and as well as scoring 106 goals also had the best defensive record in the league – with just 27 conceded.

Otamendi was a big part of that, and he also showed signs that he had adapted well to Guardiola’s demand for his defenders to be consummate footballers.

He was in the top five for passing accuracy in the league – and it was not just a case of padding out his stats with safe, sideways passes. Otamendi was passing through the lines, and had become part of the Blues’ attacking unit as well as marshalling the defence.

Concerns over Kompany, and John Stones’ own injury troubles had meant City turning to misfit Eliaquim Mangala in the crucial middle of the season, and the Blues, unusually, went into the transfer market in January to bring in Aymeric Laporte.

But it was Otamendi who stood tall, playing in nearly twice as many league games as any other central defender and seeing out the season in harness with Kompany.

He was dubbed “Superman” by Guardiola in December of that season, after making the most passes in the league and even scoring four goals while playing in 19 of their first 20 games.

“If I would like to point to a player who deserves respect for what we have done so far this season, it is Otamendi,” said Guardiola.

“Being a central defender in our team is not easy. They have to do more than just defending. It is so demanding. This kind of thing can only happen when you are brave and have courage.”

But the following season, with Laporte emerging as a key performer, Kompany dredging the final few ounces of his career to drive them over the line, Otamendi was increasingly sidelined.

He only started 14 league games in that campaign, and 18 last season, despite Kompany departing and Laporte being injured long-term.


The fact that Guardiola turned to midfielder Fernandinho, and then to teenager Eric Garcia, before picking Otamendi, meant the writing was on the wall.

His old habits returned with a vengeance, with fingers pointed in his direction at key moments of defeats by Norwich and Wolves, and Guardiola’s selections revealed his own feelings.

Otamendi became third, fourth and even fifth choice at various stages of a disappointing campaign for the team, his only respite coming when City needed a more physical approach, such as Burnley.

But he leaves the Blues having made 210 appearances and scored 11 goals, picking up two Premier League winner’s medals, four League Cups and an FA Cup along the way.