One Man City’s career could have come to an end after a medal cut on the final day

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When Manchester City played West Ham in September, a strange incident occurred before kick-off.

As the players shook hands and prepared for the match, West Ham midfielder Lucas Paqueta jogged to the benches. But not his home bench, City’s.

Paqueta shook hands with Pep Guardiola, who had just sat down. The Brazilian also shook hands with assistant Juanma Lillo before the No.10 took part in the match. He was greeted warmly by the Blues bench.

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City had explored the chance of signing Paqueta in the summer, but his FA investigation into possible betting violations quickly put an end to matters. The risk of a ban was too great, as Sandro Tonali showed with his own ten-month ban. City signed Matheus Nunes instead.

Nunes hasn’t set the world on fire yet and it took Mateo Kovacic time to find his role in the team. Kevin De Bruyne was injured for half the season and there are rumors about his future, while there will always be speculation about Bernardo Silva’s transfer status. There is every chance that City will return to the market for an attacking midfielder this season.

Guardiola has never spoken about City’s interest in Paqueta and refused to do so at the start of the season because he is signed by West Ham. He called the Brazilian a threat and praised his qualities ahead of Sunday’s decisive match against the Hammers. But before anyone reads too much into that, Guardiola also highlighted half a dozen of his team-mates to highlight the task ahead of City.

Paqueta scored eight goals and seven assists from 42 appearances, including four goals in nine games in the Europa League. City won’t be discouraged by Paqueta’s form, spread across attacking midfield and left wing. Sunday was quiet, but this was not the day when West Ham players could spoil the party (apart from Mohammed Kudus’ spectacular effort).

The Brazilian stayed away from the City bench this time but will have done nothing to stop the Blues from renewing their interest this season if they wanted to and his investigation is ended. An £85 million release clause made his situation even more intriguing.

One player who will almost certainly not play for City next season, nor for West Ham, is Kalvin Phillips. The midfielder looked to put an 18-month nightmare at City behind him when he moved to the London Stadium on loan in January, but somehow saw his fortunes plummet to new depths.

Injury ended his season prematurely and his hopes of making the England squad for the 2024 Euros are virtually non-existent. He trusts Gareth Southgate to judge his form before 2022 rather than after. Phillips could find himself in the awkward situation of arriving with the West Ham group and then potentially joining City’s title celebrations if they win the league (although he has made just four Premier League appearances for City this season and so won’t once automatically entitled to a title). medal).

Sunday could be the last time we see Phillips at the Etihad, but he was nowhere near the pitch – instead in a box with his family in Blue or Claret colours. He was a notable absentee from the post-match celebrations and did not win a medal on the pitch with his City teammates.

Not that he automatically qualified for a medal, as he only played four times. But Scott Carson got one to loud cheers and three academy players who had been unused substitutes were encouraged by Kyle Walker to join the group that lifted the trophy.

If City could get even half of the £42m they paid Leeds for Phillips this summer, they would consider it a success. If that leads to a potential deal for Paqueta, it could offset one of the worst signings in recent memory.

With Sunday highlighting the likely end of Phillips’ career at City, it’s worth watching Paqueta to see if there are any clues to the start of a new Blues career.