By Michael Hincks
Brahim Diaz: Where will Real Madrid signing fit in?
Last Updated: 07/01/19 1:53pm
Brahim Diaz has joined Real Madrid after a lack of first-team opportunities at Manchester City. We look at what went wrong in England and consider why a return to Spain could suit the 19-year-old winger.
Four years after making the move from Malaga to Manchester for £200,000, Diaz is returning to his homeland, signing a six-and-a-half-year deal with Real Madrid and joining for an initial fee of £15.5m.
The Spain Under-21 international was out of contract in the summer, and Sky Sports News understands City made the decision to cash in now.
But where did it go wrong for Diaz at City? And what makes Real Madrid - who are struggling in La Liga this season - a better fit?
We look at how the transfer unfolded, and consider whether Jadon Sancho's exploits in Germany could have been a contributing factor...
Diaz made 10 appearances for City during the 2017-18 season, all off the bench bar one Carabao Cup match, and the opportunities dried up further this campaign.
He featured off the bench in City's Community Shield win over Chelsea, but with Kevin De Bruyne, Riyad Mahrez, Bernardo Silva, David Silva, Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling for company in attacking midfield, he was omitted from their 25-man Premier League squad.
As a result, Diaz was reduced to just three Carabao Cup starts, while on two occasions he was an unused substitute in the Champions League.
Diaz did not complete 90 minutes in any of the three Carabao Cup games, but having scored both goals in the 2-0 win over Fulham, it meant he averaged a goal every 66 minutes in the competition.
City's attempts to keep Diaz
According to City boss Pep Guardiola, the club did "absolutely everything" to extend Diaz's contract by four or five years, but said he would not stand in the winger's way should he want to leave.
Guardiola said in December: "The academy has to be proud. It is a signal we are working really well. We want him, we want to extend his contract four or five years - we will do absolutely everything, but it's in his hands.
Diaz's representative is Pere Guardiola - Pep's brother - whose Media Base Sports agency co-own La Liga club Girona along with Manchester City.
"My advice if he doesn't want to stay he has to leave. It's simple. We protect him - the same with Jadon, Phil [Foden] - but he has to decide. It's no more than that."
Later in the month, Guardiola reiterated his uncertainty regarding Diaz's future, stating: "We do everything to keep them (the young players) but they decide."
We want him, we want to extend his contract four or five years - we will do absolutely everything, but it's in his hands.
Pep on Diaz in December
The Sancho effect?
Diaz is not the first teenager to depart City in search of regular first-team opportunities, with Sancho leaving to join Borussia Dortmund 18 months ago.
Few need reminding of the consequences of Sancho's decision; as of January 2019, the 18-year-old has three senior England caps, as well as six goals and seven assists in the Bundesliga - most notably the winner at fierce rivals Schalke in December.
Reiss Nelson, on loan from Arsenal at Hoffenheim, also has six Bundesliga goals to his name, and though the duo are not exactly trailblazers in playing abroad, they have certainly shone the light on the benefits of playing regular football.
So why Real if not City?
As mentioned, with such esteemed company in attacking midfield at City, Diaz was rarely given the opportunity to shine, but in joining Real - the home of the European champions - he is not now becoming the bigger fish in a smaller pond.
One does not simply walk into Real's first team, but Diaz has more than one string to his bow, and it is this versatility which could prove to be his greatest asset.
Diaz started in a different position in each of his three Carabao Cup games for City this season - central, then right, then left - and his ability to play across the attack makes him an enticing option, if at least from the bench, which is more than could be said during his time at the Etihad.
Real manager Santiago Solari has settled with a 4-3-3 formation since taking charge, meaning Diaz would be vying with Gareth Bale, Lucas Vazquez, Marco Asensio and Vinicius Junior for a starting position on the flanks.
Meanwhile, Solari's go-to substitution has been to introduce Isco - who has started five La Liga games but come off the bench eight times - and Diaz would also provide competition should the Real boss want to bring on a central attacking midfielder.
Immediate chance to impress
According to Marca, Diaz is expected to be the only arrival at the Bernabeu this January, and there will be an expectancy among Madrid fans to see their latest recruit in action as soon as possible.
Real are currently fifth in La Liga, 10 points behind leaders Barcelona.
They also have injury issues as Bale limped off in the 2-2 draw with Villarreal on Thursday and then missed the home defeat to Real Sociedad on Sunday, while Asensio has been out since mid-December. Both are expected to return later this month, but their injuries offer Diaz an immediate route into the matchday squad.
Wednesday sees Real host Leganes in the Copa del Rey, while on Sunday they travel to Real Betis. The weekend's game could see Diaz manage more league appearances in Spain during his first week than he had managed in England so far this season, and as the campaign progresses, it will be worth monitoring whether he really is another teenage talent that got away for City.