There are reasons for Manchester City fans to be both optimistic and cautious following their team’s capture of Nolito from Celta Vigo.
On the one hand, their new signing is without doubt a highly-talented performer who is capable of conjuring spectacular goals from nowhere and recently rose to the status of starter for Spain.
But on the other side of the coin, he is also an unproven talent at the highest level and has struggled to consistently deliver the kind of form necessary to become a key player at a club which holds the lofty ambitions of City.
It has taken a very long time for Nolito to reach the top. He didn’t even join Barcelona’s B-team until he was 22 and gradually flirted with a place in the first XI, then under the management of Pep Guardiola.But he failed to make the grade at the Nou Camp and departed for mixed spells with Benfica and Granada before finding a more permanent home at Celta Vigo, where three seasons saw him play a major role in turning the Galicians into one of the most attractive teams in the country.
International recognition duly followed, but Nolito has rarely looked totally convincing or comfortable as a starter for Spain, with his half-time substitution during the recent Euro 2016 defeat to Italy demonstrating how he is still a man on the margins.
At the age of 29, he can hardly be regarded as ‘one for the future’ as he arrives in England. He needs to deliver the goods from the word go and, to be blunt, the evidence of his career until now is that he will only do so in fits and starts.
Guardiola, his former coach at Barcelona, knows his new arrival better than anyone at the club and will obviously have plans for his new recruit and Nolito’s versatility is undoubtedly one of his main assets – he can play anywhere across the forward line, thriving at Celta as an ‘inverted’ winger on the left-hand side of a front three.
Clearly, his natural ability should be enough to make him a valuable member of the City squad. But whether he can go a step further and become a key player in a title-chasing team remains to be seen.