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River Plate is the club he supports, but Nicolas Otamendi isn’t ready to leave Manchester City until his contract runs out in 2022.
“Nico’s wish is to retire in River but he’s not going to interrupt the contract with the City. At 34 he could return to Argentina and close his career in the Millionaire, but we still had no contact and nobody spoke to us. If (River manager Marcelo) Gallardo calls him, Nico doesn’t even doubt him, he comes. He is dying to play in River.”
Bray also noted how Sendoa had posted a birthday message on Instagram when Otamendi turned 32 on Wednesday. The message accompanied a picture of both men outside River Plate’s stadium.
Otamendi responded by speaking about his immediate future in Manchester to La Red (h/t Ole, via Bray): “I am a River fan. Martin is my friend, but not my representative. Jorge Mendes is. I don’t want to embarrass Gallardo or River. I have two years of contract at Manchester City and my head is set here, to fulfil it. My family, my children are happy. Then it will be seen.”
While he’s content to remain at the Etihad Stadium for now, Otamendi did recount how he’s received messages from River fans. However, the defender has not spoken to the Argentinian club despite his respect for River manager Marcelo Gallardo’s “incredible” performance.
For now, Otamendi is prepared to concentrate on the rest of City’s season. Success in the cups looks to be the main target for the defending Premier League champions who are 22 points behind Liverpool, even though they’ve played a game less than the leaders.
A vulnerability in defence has undone the Citizens several times this season. Otamendi and Co. have conceded 29 goals after 25 matches, with the South American in the starting XI for costly defeats against Tottenham Hotspur, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Norwich City.
Otamendi was unable to help Pep Guardiola’s team cope during the absence of Aymeric Laporte. The latter missed nearly six months with a knee injury, the chief reason why City’s defence crumbled.
Another reason involved the club’s failure to replace Vincent Kompany last summer when the departing skipper rejoined former club Anderlecht. It left Guardiola with Laporte, John Stones and Otamendi as his only senior options at the positions.
Stones has always been shaky, lacking the aggression to complement his exceptional technique on the ball. Meanwhile, Otamendi is aggressive and effective in the air, but he remains prone to reckless lapses in judgement.
The problems experienced by City’s established defenders have led Guardiola to give more opportunities to an academy graduate like Eric Garcia. Still just 19, Garcia excelled during a 1-0 win away to Sheffield United in January.
Yet despite Garcia’s development, as well as Otamendi’s desire to stay, there’s no doubt City still need reinforcements at centre-back. Guardiola has been linked with Unai Nunez of Athletic Bilbao, per AS (h/t MailOnline’s Kathryn Batte).
City will need fresh talent if they are going to make up the difference to Liverpool next season. In the meantime, it’s debatable whether Otamendi, Stones and Garcia will be good enough alongside the returning Laporte to help the club finally win the UEFA Champions League.