Manchester City have announced Manuel Agudo Duran, aka Nolito, as Pep Guardiola’s third signing since taking the reins, following Ilkay Gundogan and Aaron Mooy into the Etihad Stadium.
The 29-year-old joins from Celta Vigo, where he savoured an excellent three-year tenure, after the Citizens activated his £13.8m release clause.
Guardiola is well acquainted with Nolito’s talents, having handed him his La Liga debut when in charge of Barcelona, though he can’t have been especially fond of the Spaniard back then, having sanctioned his sale to Benfica a few months later ahead of the 2011/12 season.
His stint in Portugal, which lasted just over a year, harnessed sharpshooting skills that have brought double-figure goal hauls in every campaign aside from 2012/13 since.
Last term was his most prolific, with 12 strikes registered across 29 La Liga appearances equating to one goal every 0.41 matches.
Quick feet, awareness in the box and lethal finishing are among the attributes that make him such a threat in the final third, which spell bad news for Raheem Sterling.
Nolito will be deployed on the left of City’s attack when picked, a spot where Sterling was located on 23 occasions last term according to whoscored.com.
But it’s not just positional likeness that leaves the much-maligned England international vulnerable to losing his place.
From a tactical perspective, Nolito’s ability to find space in tightly-packed penalty areas coupled with his laser-eye shooting accuracy suggests he’ll flourish alongside feted conjurers David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne.
The inbound Spanish international will provide another outlet capable of burying the threaded passes of the aforementioned playmakers, plus the extra opportunities forged by fellow new recruit Gundogan, another renowned for his extraordinary passing prowess.
Sterling’s struggles with finishing have been documented extensively since his emergence at Liverpool. He managed just six goals in 31 league appearances last term, three of which came in a 5-1 win over Bournemouth.
Increasing the output from Sergio Aguero’s supporting cast is clearly one of Guardiola’s priorities and unless Sterling can rectify his most prominent shortcoming, a place on the City periphery beckons.