Manchester City have confirmed the signing of Eliaquim Mangala from Porto, as the official club website has confirmed, ending a long chase to sign the French defender that began back in January.
The 23-year-old is City’s sixth summer signing, joining his Porto teammate Fernando as well as goalkeeper Willy Caballero, signed from Malaga, and Bacary Sagna, a free transfer from Arsenal. Frank Lampard has joined on loan from New York City FC, while Bruno Zuculini is also on the Etihad Stadium books following his move from Racing Club in Argentina.
Now Mangala arrives on the back of a reported £32 million fee, per BBC Sport, which makes the France international City's costliest signing of the summer window.
Mangala almost signed for City during the January transfer window, only for the deal to collapse at the 11th hour, per BBC Sport. However, the club continued to monitor his progress and returned this summer with renewed interest.
After last season, where the rigours of four competitions proved too much for a squad lacking in certain areas, Manuel Pellegrini and sporting director Txiki Begiristain appear committed to ensuring they are better equipped this time around.
They won the Premier League and League Cup in the Chilean’s debut season in England, yet a feeling persists that had their squad been stronger in certain departments they could well have challenged for the FA Cup and Champions League, too.
Mangala started his career at Standard Liege and was part of their title-winning side of 2008/09, his first season at the club. Although uncultured and inexperienced, his raw attributes were enough to have scouts flocking to watch his development, and it wasn’t long before he was the subject of bids from bigger sides.
He moved to Porto in 2011 for £5.5 million, and his development was rapid. He won two league titles and was part of a mean defence, with his performances in Portugal enough to see him make his debut for France against Uruguay last year.
He is far from the finished article and spent this World Cup behind Arsenal’s Laurent Koscielny and Liverpool’s Mamadou Sakho in the France squad, but City, who have watched him closely at Porto, believe he has the ability to become a successful long-term partner for Vincent Kompany at the heart of their defence.
It is the area City have prioritised in terms of improvement this summer. Matija Nastasic’s injury problems and the release of Joleon Lescott has left them somewhat short of options at centre-back, with 33-year-old Martin Demichelis their first-choice partner for their captain throughout the last campaign. It is a part of the team which has been seen as their Achilles’ heel for too long.
Demichelis performed exceptionally during the closing months of City’s title-winning campaign, yet the feeling remains that a younger player with the potential to become a regular for years to come was much-needed.
Mangala is quick and powerful, and his reading of the game has improved significantly over the last two seasons, even if he still has work to do before he can consider himself an elite-level player. Whether Pellegrini can make the subtle adjustments to his game to catapult him into that bracket could be vital in determining City’s future success.
If he can go on to form a solid partnership with Kompany, City may well find themselves capable of competing more aggressively on the European stage. It is fair to say City have firmly established themselves as the dominant team in England over the past three seasons, yet their Champions League performances remain underwhelming.
There is now huge pressure on Mangala to deliver given his fee, but with the experience of Kompany and Demichelis to draw upon, he is arguably in the right place to improve.
Rob Pollard is Bleacher Report's lead Manchester City correspondent and will be following the club from a Manchester base throughout the 2014-15 season. Follow him on Twitter here: @RobPollard_.