Manchester City have agreed a €71.6m (£65.2m) deal with Benfica for Portugal centre-half, Ruben Dias, as Pep Guardiola throws more money at a ramshackle defence that was ripped apart by a rampant Leicester City at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday.
Benfica confirmed the sale of Dias and signing of Otamendi in a statement on their official website late on Sunday night. City will pay an initial €68m (£61.9m) for Dias with a further €3.6n (£3.3m) payable in add ons.
Dias, 23, is expected to complete a move to City in the next 24 hours in a deal that will take Guardiola’s spending on defenders to more than £400m in four years. The club record fee will be partially offset by the departure of Nicolas Otamendi to Benfica in return for around €15m (£13.7m).
But the scale of the task facing Dias was laid bare in a 5-2 humiliation on Sunday as the outstanding Jamie Vardy scored a hat-trick on an afternoon when City conceded three penalties and imploded defensively against Leicester’s pace and aggression on the counter-attack.
In an acute early setback to the club’s hopes of wresting the Premier League title back from Liverpool this season, Guardiola cursed City’s familiar susceptibility on the break and nerves while trying to deflect attention from his own team’s failures by criticising Leicester’s tactics.
City took the lead in the fourth minute through Riyad Mahrez but Leicester hit back in stunning fashion courtesy of three goals from Vardy, two of which were from the penalty spot, James Maddison and a third spot-kick, from Youri Tielemans, shortly after Vardy’s substitution. Nathan Ake pulled a goal back for City late on.
It was the first time in 686 games as a manager that Guardiola had seen one of his teams concede five goals.
“In this situation, it happened many times so we have to control the counter attack and I think today the problem was we put extra pressure on ourselves to score the second or third goal when they [Leicester] just didn’t want to play - they just wanted to defend and play on the counter attack and in that position we have to be more calm,” the City manager said.
“We were anxious to attack and say we are not creating chances. We got nervous and, after, we gave three penalties away and when you do that you cannot do it.
“We struggled because it’s so difficult when Jamie Vardy is 10 or 15 yards away from the 18-yard box, the spaces are so small. We didn’t create much and started to think we were playing bad.”
Vardy claimed Leicester’s game-plan worked to perfection. “We have set up to infuriate them and it has worked a treat,” he said. “We tweaked it tactically knowing that, when we got the ball and played through their press, we would get a few chances and we stuck them all away.”
Brendan Rodgers hailed the “phenomenal” Vardy and suggested the win was 13 years in the making after the Leicester manager revealed some poor results against the top sides had forced him to rethink his approach.
“It was a brilliant performance and result,” he said. “It has taken me 13 years to play that way. I’m very much about attacking and being aggressive. I always try to be positive but I need to think of other ways to get results in theses games.
“Bringing the game into our half of the field and blocking off one of their midfielders but you have to be good in the transition to get two or three passes to get out. We took out the press from the goal kicks and went direct.
“With the quality that City have, you have to condense the space and try and build from there. They are good at counter pressing but we were able to get out of that well.
“To go behind and show our mentality and calmness was pleasing. You have to run your legs off and we did that, but we still had the energy and quality to open them up when we had the ball. What was pleasing was the adaptability.
“Pep’s a special manager. A real pioneer in our industry. I love everything he does, I hadn’t managed to win [against him] but today was a special performance.”
Guardiola was reluctant to discuss Dias’s impending arrival or Otamendi’s departure until both transfers are made official. Dias - who is expected to sign a five-year contract with City - was due in Manchester overnight after playing his final game for Benfica on Saturday when he hugged his team-mates and Benfica’s sporting director, Rui Costa, at the final whistle. “I believe that everyone already has an idea why I hugged Rui Costa,” he said.
On Otamendi and Dias - whose departure ends Guardiola’s year long wait for a right-sided centre-half to replace Vincent Kompany - and the prospect of more signings before the close of the transfer window on Monday week, Guardiola said: “It is not official so let me wait until it’s official and after it will be a pleasure to give a statement on an important player for years like Nico.
“I don’t talk about this [Dias and signings]. We will see what happens. What happens is going to happen.”