It was a historic, first time La Liga match-up between newly promoted Catalan side Girona FC and Real Madrid in La Liga last Sunday.
The Catalan club’s 2–1 victory over the team from Madrid took on further importance considering the current political standoff between Catalonia and the Spanish government.
Such an event could over-awe a young player, but Manchester City loanee, Pablo Maffeo, looked comfortable and calm tackling the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Isco and Marcelo in Girona’s shock victory over the reigning Spanish top flight and European champions.
And why shouldn’t Maffeo have looked at ease? He’s a very much talked about defender in La Liga these days.
Once seen as a promising young Academy player at Manchester City, the youngster is more than that, now. His potential is being realised and pundits are regularly speaking positively about him on the weekends.
His epic man-marking job on Lionel Messi earlier in the season was talked about for days after the performance. He is starting to be what many thought he could be – a quality full-back.
Maffeo is quickly developing a reputation as a great tackler as well as an astute attacker, getting himself into smart positions in the final third and executing dangerous crosses and shots towards goal.
He plays as a right wingback for Girona, tirelessly running up and down the wing for the entire ninety minutes.
He is exactly the kind of full-back Pep Guardiola was looking for at the beginning of this season and he is the only Manchester City loanee among the likes of Aleix Garcia, Douglas Luiz, Marlos Moreno and Olarenwaju Kayode to be a regular starter in the team.
In Sunday’s game against Real Madrid, Maffeo provided an assist for Girona’s second goal in the 2–1 victory over the Spanish giants. He also hit the post with a fantastic effort after cutting in from the right wing early in the first half.
The rest of the game saw the 20-year-old thwarting Madrid’s attacks on numerous occasions with effective, well-timed tackles that one would perhaps expect from an older, more experienced defender.
The challenge that Pablo Maffeo’s growing reputation presents for Manchester City is that others clubs are beginning to take notice.
Spanish publication Superdeporte recently made the claim that Valencia is interested in the starlet and also reported that City had recently turned down a bid from FC Koln in Germany.
Maffeo is gaining valuable experience playing for Girona in La Liga, but a player with his potential could learn even more playing for a bigger club.
The problem for City is that their right back position is currently filled by Kyle Walker and Danilo, two expensive players who have been living up to expectations with very good performances in the Premier League. That doesn’t leave any room for Maffeo in the near future.
A young player whose performances against the likes of Messi, Barcelona and Real Madrid are being highly praised could not be faulted if his ambition caused him to be tempted by the other big clubs of Europe.
So, how can Manchester City address this situation? They could try to convince Maffeo to stay at Girona with the promise that in another two or three years he will be brought back to City. However, the player may see that as two or three years of missed opportunities to move on to bigger and better things.
Another option for the near future could be a loan deal to a bigger club or to sell the full-back with a buy-back clause, as City have already done with the likes of Kelechi Iheanacho, Aaron Mooy and Enes Unal.
Maffeo is getting great experience in La Liga playing top tier football against legends such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Messi. Nonetheless, soon he may not just want to play against legends, but also alongside them.
There is a lot of love among Manchester City fans for this young man and they have been following him with much enthusiasm since his Academy days.
Many wanted to see him playing for the first team, this year. There is, therefore, an expectation that the club must find a way to guarantee him a promising future at the Etihad.
For the moment, fans of Manchester City and sister club Girona FC will continue to enthusiastically follow the young man’s adventures in La Liga, hoping that his current form will provide many more pleasing performances throughout the season.
If his success continues then all eyes will be on City’s management in the summer to see how they satisfy the player’s ambitions as well as the yearning of his fans to see him remain with the club.