It’s clear which of the pair Porto deemed to be the better central defender.
After spending three seasons leading the Porto defensive line, over one of which he was partnered by Eliaquim Mangala, Nicolas Otamendi was sold to Valencia for a fee in the region of £10 million on the brink of his 26th birthday.
At the end of the same season Otamendi’s partner was also moved on by the Portuguese giants, but Manchester City were forced to cough up the best part of £32 million for the French international.
Of course, transfer fees are not the decisive factor when assessing ability, but there are certainly grounds to believe that the margin between the quality of the pair is minimal at best.
And the fact that Man City have now agreed to pay another £32 million to sign the Argentine indicates that their thinking is on a similar wavelength.
Otamendi was arguably the best defender in La Liga last season, with his aggressive nature and desire to get touch-tight to opposing strikers particularly noticeable.
With Martin Demichelis in the twilight of his career, Manuel Pellegrini identified that he could use another central defender in his squad. The problem is which of the former Porto pair will partner Vincent Kompany.
Mangala has to remain in the immediate driving seat, having done little wrong in helping the Citizens begin the latest campaign with back-to-back 3-0 Premier League victories. The fallout of this is that Pellegrini’s men are now 5/4 favourites to win the English top-flight for the third time in five seasons.
What’s more, Mangala’s skill set on paper provides a better balance alongside Kompany.
There is no compromise in terms of playing style with the club captain, he is very proactive in his pursuit to win back possession and not always the best reader of the game – both have the knock on effects of which can leave him stranded out of position.
Also his desire to stick tight to opponents increases the likelihood of him getting turned and conceding cheap free-kicks in dangerous areas.
Otamendi is not tremendously dissimilar and playing the two together, especially if City are encouraged to play with a high line without a proper holding midfielder could be a train wreck.
Mangala is far more calculated in his attempts to make tackles and the aggressiveness of his positioning.
Maybe there is the possibility in that case, especially in the short term, that Otamendi will be utilised in midfield?
Kompany started in this role when first joining from Hamburg in 2008, providing a physical presence in front of the back four and breaking up play.
He was shifted back into his current role following the signing of Nigel de Jong, who completed the perfect job of keeping possession ticking over while retaining the positional discipline required to provide a suitable defensive shield.
The Citizens have had nobody effective in this mould since, with the likes of Javi Garcia, Jack Rodwell and Fernandinho all perhaps keen to get on the ball and influence play ahead of focusing on the dull defensive elements required of the role. Don’t be surprised to see Fabian Delph having a similar mindset.
Yaya Toure has been reasonably criticised in the past 18 months for his defensive neglect in midfield and having Otamendi guaranteed to be stationed behind him will offer the licence for the Ivory Coast dominator to burst forward with more frequent regularity.
Man City have topped the Premier League scoring charts in each of the last two seasons and the addition of Raheem Sterling should only help them in their quest for goals.
By playing Otamendi in midfield, they should also do a better job at keeping things tighter at the other end. It is 5/4 that City break the record for the best goal difference this season, which currently stands at 71 by Chelsea from the 2009/10 season.
However, it is most likely that Otamendi will line up in central defence and assuming he is partnered with Kompany, City will have to defend the penalty box for best results without error. Yet, without a holding midfielder this may open a new box of problems.