Manchester City have today announced the £13.8 million signing of Spain international Nolito, with the former Celta Vigo winger signing a four-year deal. Unlike previous signing, Ilkay Gündogan, news of this projected transfer came out of the blue, with Spanish journalist, Manu Carreño, the first to break the story, on June 13th. The reason for the lack of rumours regarding this transfer could be attributed to Nolito not being considered as high profile a signing as Gündogan. Despite this, there is no reason to suggest that Nolito will not be as effective a signing.
So, what type of player is Nolito?
Whilst many comparisons have been drawn between Nolito and Jesus Navas, presumably due to age, cost, nationality and position, they are quite different players. Nolito is a skillful and tricky player, who doesn’t rely on his pace, but more his technical ability. He has a great eye for a pass, with only Lionel Messi playing more successful through balls in La Liga last season. Having spent a part of his career playing up front, he is also very comfortable when it comes to finishing, as shown by his record of a goal every three games during his time at Celta.
It should be mentioned that Nolito is also a fiery little player, having picked up 9 yellow cards in just 27 games last season and 11 in 32 during the 2014-15 season. Most importantly, Nolito is a player who doesn’t just drift in and out of games, he has a great effect on them, shown by his nine WhoScored Man of the Match ratings last season, bettered only by, once again, Lionel Messi (14).
For those of you who do not know about Nolito’s career, it is worth briefly outlining the key stages in his late rise to stardom.
Nolito spent the majority of his early career playing in the third tier of Spanish football. He made the breakthrough into first-team football playing for Sanluqueño, scoring 24 goals in 32 games between 2004 and 2006. He then moved to league rivals, Écija, where he had a less productive period, averaging a goal every five games.
The first stage of Nolito’s career came to an end at Barcelona, having joined the club at the age of 22, after being given his league debut by none other than Pep Guardiola. Despite making just two appearances for the Barcelona first team, Nolito enjoyed a good spell with the Catalan side’s B team, appearing over 100 times in the Spanish Segunda, before joining Portuguese giants, Benfica.
Having rejected Barca’s offer of a five-year contract, Nolito was eager to make a name for himself, having had a very average career so far. He spent two years with the Portuguese heavyweights, but the move didn’t further his career in the way he had hoped. Despite scoring 16 goals in all competitions, Nolito found himself back in La Liga the following season, on loan at Granada. Once again, Nolito did not set the world alight, scoring just three goals in his 17 appearances for the club.
Having been handed a lifeline by his former manager, Luis Enrique, Nolito knew that at the age of 26, it was make or break. He rewarded Enrique’s faith by finishing his debut season as Celta’s top goalscorer, with 14 goals. This was the push that Nolito desperately needed as he entered his prime years as a footballer. Over the course of the following two seasons, Nolito, who had been mainly operating as a winger, scored 25 goals in 65 games. Even the harshest of critics would agree that this was a very impressive return, especially for a winger playing for one of La Liga’s smaller clubs.
Nolito was rewarded for his impressive Celta form with a call up to the Spanish National team in both 2014 and 2015. It was in 2016, however, when Nolito cemented his place in the squad, and even became a regular in Vicente Del Bosque’s starting eleven for the European Championships. Nolito scored his first goal and got his first assist in a competitive international tournament in the recent 3-0 win over Turkey at Euro 2016.
City have been crying out for a productive goal scoring winger for a long time, as we rely too heavily on the goals of Sergio Aguero. The hope is that Nolito can help to take the burden off Aguero and give us a different option from midfield. Given that we have signed a player in the peak of his career for just £13.8 million, we should all be very satisfied with this great piece of business.