- Walker came close to leaving City but signed a new deal with an improved offer
- He sat down with manager Pep Guardiola to discuss playing time going forward
- Listen to the latest episode of Mail Sport’s podcast ‘It’s All Kicking Off!’
It did look for a while that Kyle Walker was off. Another senior member of Manchester City’s Treble winners who had completed the job and fancied trying something new.
Bayern Munich had been pushing for a while, in conjunction with their pursuit of Harry Kane and the two England stars had spoken about the prospect of joining forces in Bavaria. Kane went, Walker didn’t, but City were perilously close to losing a man who now leads them as captain in the absence of Kevin De Bruyne.
An unlikely captain, in many ways; the armband never felt like his calling. Walker has always been a joker inside the City dressing room but the intervention of his team-mates when Bayern circled shows the regard in which he is held.
The players pleaded with the club’s hierarchy to give him the contract he wanted, in what might be an unprecedented move given footballers don’t always think that broadly about how others can affect their own lives. A new two-year extension, until 2026, is not the done thing for someone who turned 33 a week before the Champions League final he sat on the bench for but Pep Guardiola’s squad contributed to that coming to fruition.
City sources say Walker was merely looking out for himself over the summer in wanting the longest contract possible — and have no problem with that. He has always maintained that it wasn’t about money. City matched Bayern’s proposal and, after talks with Guardiola about gametime over sushi, he committed his future and could end up being the latest star to do almost a decade at the Etihad Stadium.
Kyle Walker is thriving at Manchester City after choosing to stay at the club in the summer transfer window
He was close to joining Bayern Munich but signed a new deal at City after conversations with manager Pep Guardiola (right)
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A good job, really. Guardiola admitted losing the right back would have proven a disaster after the experience of Ilkay Gundogan and Riyad Mahrez left the building. What the City boss probably didn’t expect was how the veteran is arguably playing the best football of his career.
After a gruelling Sunday afternoon in the rain, Marcus Rashford can attest to that. The United winger was regularly done for pace. He had one chance all day, the only time Walker strayed positionally. ‘Our defenders were really close to their attackers, and we didn’t let them break through,’ Bernardo Silva said. Rashford looked suffocated and it’s little wonder others around the league say City’s No 2 is the toughest marker in the country.
Other than Rodri, no player on the Old Trafford pitch enjoyed more touches than Walker. Touches aren’t everything — Erling Haaland recorded the fewest of anyone to play 90 minutes and ended up with a brace — but it indicates the level of responsibility the full back has in City’s build-up play. Twelve per cent of his 90 touches were around the centre circle, an area he still likes — even with John Stones now in permanent residence. A more rounded defender than he is given credit for, with praise usually focused on his enduring speed down the wing.
Walker, whose very public off-field misdemeanours continued this year when he was caught exposing himself in a Cheshire bar, is currently playing with a clear head. There could be an element of walking out first every week offering him extra purpose.
Walker has stepped up as City captain in the absent of Kevin de Bruyne and lifted the Super Cup in August
Walker said that captains have to work out how their teams can ‘get better’, which City ‘are doing each year’
Sources say he has developed a calm and commanding voice within the five-man leadership group, relishing the chance to pass on his wisdom. And he’ll stick it to others when needed, as with ex-coach Nicolas Jover on the touchline following the defeat by Arsenal a few weeks back.
It’s a role he has grown into — taking bits from former skippers Vincent Kompany and Ledley King — and is thriving. He spent the first week of the season telling the players that they hadn’t won any of the last three Premier League titles well enough. A hard man to please.
‘Us captains have got to demand that,’ Walker said. ‘We’ve set the bar and each year it’s: how do you get better? How do we get better? We seem to be doing that each year.
‘We’ve probably gone to the top of the top where, to stay there, there is only down because are we going to go and win a Treble again? Who knows? You know, we could do.’
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