Unless of some late twists in the tale, Nolito looks nailed on to become the second signing of the Pep Guardiola era, following reports that City have already activated his £13.8 million release clause. Nolito has shone in recent seasons and has had some impressive showings for Spain in Euro 2016.
We thought it would be interesting to get the views of a Celta Vigo fan, someone who has watched the winger regularly, and Choleiros was kind enough to answer some questions about the 29-year-old.
First of all, how do you think that Nolito will adapt to the Premier League, considering many top Spanish talents have struggled in recent years?
It’s never easy for a Spanish player to get to grips with the pace and physicality of the English Premier League. That’s why I think it’d be going to be a tough start to the season for Nolo, bearing in mind that his level of fitness come August will be hampered by the fact that he is featuring regularly for Spain in the Euros. Having said that though, I reckon things are going to be quite different on a personal level. I can’t see homesickness or cultural divide being an issue for him. His stay here in Vigo proves he can settle right in at a place where the culture and weather are diametrically opposed to those of Andalusia, his birthplace.
Nolito has been watched by Barcelona in recent years, with the Catalan club moving to sign him in January. Considering he is not very well known in England, do you think he at the level required for an elite club?
His numbers over the last couple of seasons show that he can be, and I fully expect he will. The fact that Del Bosque is picking him ahead of the likes of Pedro speaks volumes, and you wouldn’t say the Spanish national team are Sunday league dross, would you?
What are Nolito’s strengths and weaknesses?
He can play almost any attacking position on both sides of the pitch, but his performances as an inverted winger cutting in off the left were the ones that have earned him his prominence in world football.
Not lightning quick, he’s got decent pace and is always up to take on the defender. Besides, and what’s more important, he’s got goals in him, and, like you say up there, goals pay the rent. The assortment of absolute beauties he got us used to over the last couple seasons is something we’ll hardly relive in years to come.
In terms of his downsides, he’s getting on a bit but, as a late developer, I think that his peak is yet to come. Another chink in his armor: he tends to drift off the game whenever things don’t go his way, giving away cheap fouls and failing to track back effectively. Don’t get me wrong, he always puts a shift in, but you’ll find the odd stinker here and there.
Considering we already have Raheem Sterling on the left-hand side, do you expect Nolito to oust him from the side, or do you believe he’ll be a squad player?
As things stand, fitness issues apart, I think Nolo is a shoo-in to feature on the left come August, if only for one reason: goals. Raheem’s proverbial wastefulness in front of goal and lack of consistency has been the object of much criticism ever since he started to play regularly for Liverpool in 2013-14.
With Nolito you get a consistent 12-goals-a-season player. Add to the equation the fact that Guardiola knows him pretty well from his spell at Barcelona and you sort of get the whole picture. Anyway, in a hectic season like the one you lot are going to have, there’ll be plenty of games for them to give the manager something to think about.
Finally, are you surprised that Nolito’s release clause hasn’t been activated by any other club?
Not really. There’s not much money around in Spanish football and, to be perfectly honest, everybody at Celta was convinced that if the release clause was to be triggered, it would be done by an English club. It was just waiting to happen.