Manchester City are currently in the process of slowly but surely overhauling the heart of their defence, following the departure of Vincent Kompany in 2019.

Last season, defensive midfielder Fernandinho deputised at centre-back for much of the campaign, due to a number of injuries to key players in that position, namely Aymeric Laporte. This summer, City have added Nathan Aké to their ranks, a calm and composed, left-footed central defender – a rare commodity in the footballing world.

Pep Guardiola is not satisfied with just one defensive addition; he deems it necessary for City to have a selection of centre-backs to choose from, all capable of playing at an elite level.

Two centre-backs currently playing in La Liga have emerged as possible alternatives to City's priority target, Kalidou Koulibaly. They are José Giménez of Atletico Madrid and Jules Koundé, a Europa League winner with Sevilla.

José Giménez

Uruguayan international Giménez has spent the past six seasons under fellow South American Diego Simeone at Atletico Madrid. The 25-year-old – who recently tested positive for COVID-19 – has made 130 La Liga appearances despite having never been a prolonged regular in Atleti’s defence.

A mixture of injuries and loss of form has seen him feature intermittently throughout his time in Madrid. Nevertheless, Giménez is still a high-level central defender, even if his injury history is a little concerning.

Guardiola’s apparent pursuit of Giménez seems at odds with the style of defender he has typically signed throughout his managerial career. The Uruguayan is considered something of a magnet for yellow cards, and is hardly one of the more progressive ball-players.

What he is good at though, is old-school defensive work, something which is being lost in the discourse of modern central defenders. According to FootballSlices.com, over the past two seasons in European and domestic competition, Giménez has won 74.1% of his aerial duels, putting him in the top 8% of central defenders across Europe’s top five leagues.

City are said to be keen on Atletico Madrid's Jose Gimenez. (Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images)
City are said to be keen on Atletico Madrid's Jose Gimenez. (Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images)

His value in Simeone’s hardened, regimented side should not be underestimated – while his performances are rarely glamorous, they are effective as he can bludgeon opponents into submission.

Considering the options City currently have in central defence, they are lacking something of an enforcer – and while there is the argument one is not necessary, the club clearly feel they are missing a player of Giménez’s style, otherwise he would not be on their watchlist.

The 12 matches City lost in all competitions last season is certainly something Guardiola will be hoping to rectify in this campaign, and if that means smartening up in defence with a more rugged centre-back partnering a ball-player, then so be it.

Jules Koundé

Twenty-one-year-old Jules Koundé is a more balanced central defender in comparison to Giménez. The Frenchman is a better distributor of the ball, although he can be suspect of overplaying at times, attempting more difficult passes which are intercepted.

Koundé ties in with the style of defender Guardiola has been more used to working with, and would require less moulding to City’s way of playing. Over the past season with Sevilla, Koundé has matured massively; he appears stronger, more resolute and better in physical duels than he did in Ligue 1 with Girondins Bordeaux.

Crucial to Manchester City’s style is the ability to commit tactical fouls, and Koundé is cunning when it comes to that endeavour too. Somewhat under the radar, the 21-year-old has been one of the most reliable centre-backs in Spain over the past 12 months.

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A stumbling block would be his age and the remaining years on his contract, totalling four. This indicates Koundé would likely be more expensive than Giménez and ultimately it comes down to whether Guardiola’s desire for a centre-back solution is immediate or could perhaps wait six to twelve months.

Koundé’s progressive capabilities suggest he would be a better fit, especially considering he has shown he can improve in more classical defensive areas, competing well in the air and proving to be a difficult pillar to bypass in Sevilla’s rearguard.

On the whole, the duo would be more than capable of assimilating to the Premier League – their physical capabilities mean there are no major concerns in that department.