Whisper it, but the international calendar is working out very well for Manchester City this summer.
The priority for any club manager when their players go away with their countries is for them to return fully fit, and the concern on that count is Fernandinho . His injury does not sound serious but he has not been deemed in perfect enough condition for Tite to risk him at the Copa America.
However, Rodri’s arrival should allow the Brazilian to ease his way back to fitness and everything else has gone as well as can be expected.
City’s quartet of Englishman got to test themselves against a Netherlands team featuring Matthijs de Ligt, Frenkie de Jong and Virgil van Dijk in the UEFA Nations League, the biggest European tournament of the summer. Bernardo Silva shone for Portugal in the final and was named as the best player – some accolade given Cristiano Ronaldo’s hat-trick in the last four.
Phil Foden was one of the only players to emerge with credit from England’s poor showing at the Under-21 European Championships, with coach Aidy Boothroyd receiving criticism for not starting the City youngster for a must-win game. Pep Guardiola and his coaches will keenly assess just how tired the player was and whether any more physical work is needed, but the talent was there in testing circumstances.
The two ongoing tournaments are also benefiting the Blues.
Riyad Mahrez looks comfortable leading Algeria’s charge in the Africa Cup of Nations, and despite some pessimistic predictions they have qualified for the latter stages with a game to spare. Previews fo,,r the tournament picked out Liverpool duo Sadio Mane and Mo Salah as the ones to watch but Algeria’s win over Mane’s Senegal sees them likely to top the group.
Skipping back to South America sees another tantalising contest with Brazil (Gabriel Jesus, Fernandinho and Ederson) up against Argentina (Nicolas Otamendi and Sergio Aguero) in the semi-finals. There may be five Blues in the tournament but the main event is the battle between two strikers that have enjoyed their own redemption.
Aguero’s international career looked over after a diff,,icult World Cup for Argentina. New coach Lionel Scaloni announced in August that he had been dropped ‘for the good of the national team’ but a surprise recall for this tournament sees him two games away from a first senior title with his country.
Standing in the way is a rejuvenated Jesus, who has recovered from a difficult 12 months for City and Brazil to find his groove (and a place in the starting XI) again.
If Guardiola will not be able to call on all of his stars when pre-season begins on July 8, he can at least be content that those that are absent have risen to the challenge of some significant contests with their countries that should help them when they do link back up with the Blues.