One Man City career might have ended after medal snub on final day

City celebrate their title win
City celebrate their title win -Credit:Getty

When Manchester City took on West Ham in September, there was a curious incident before kick-off.

As the players had shaken hands and were preparing to line up for the game, West Ham midfielder Lucas Paqueta jogged over to the benches. But not his home bench, City's.

Paqueta shook hands with Pep Guardiola, who had just taken his seat. The Brazilian also shook the hand of assistant Juanma Lillo before the no.10 took part in the game. He was greeted warmly by the Blues bench.

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City had explored the chance to sign Paqueta in the summer, but his investigation by the FA for potential betting breaches quickly put a stop to things. The risk of a ban was too much, as Sandro Tonali has shown with his own ten month suspension. City signed Matheus Nunes instead.

Nunes hasn't set the world alight yet, and it took time for Mateo Kovacic to find his role in the team. Kevin De Bruyne spent half the season injured and there are some rumours over his future, while there will always be speculation over Bernardo Silva's transfer status. There is every chance City return to the market for an attacking midfielder this term.

Guardiola has never spoken of City's interest in Paqueta, declining to do so at the start of the season because he is contracted by West Ham. He named the Brazilian as a threat, praising his qualities in the build-up to Sunday's final day decider against the Hammers. Before anyone reads too much into that, however, Guardiola also highlighted half a dozen of his teammates to emphasise the task facing City.

Paqueta has eight goals and seven assists from 42 appearances, including four goals in nine outings in the Europa League. City won't have been discouraged by Paqueta's form, spread across attacking midfield and left wing. He was quiet on Sunday but this was not a day for West Ham players to spoil the party (Mohammed Kudus' spectacular effort aside).

The Brazilian stayed away from the City bench this time, but won't have done anything to dissuade the Blues from revisiting their interest this season if they wanted to, and his investigation goes away. A reported £85m release clause adding intrigue to his situation.

One player almost certain not to be at City next season, or West Ham for that matter, is Kalvin Phillips. The midfielder looked to put a nightmare 18-months at City behind him when making the loan move to the London Stadium in January, but somehow saw his fortunes nosedive to new depths.

Injury has seen his season end prematurely, and his hopes of reaching England's Euro 2024 squad are virtually non-existant, reliant on Gareth Southgate judging his form from before 2022 rather than after it. Phillips could be in the awkward situation where he arrives with the West Ham group, then potentially joins City's title celebrations if they win the league (although he only has four Premier League appearances for City this term, so isn't even automatically entitled to a medal).

Sunday could be the final time we see Phillips at the Etihad, but he was nowhere near the pitch - instead up in a box with his family wearing neither Blue or Claret colours. He was a notable absentee in the post-match celebrations and didn't pick up a medal on the pitch with his City teammates.

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

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

As Sunday emphasises the likely end of Phillips' City career, it will be worth watching Paqueta to see if there are any hints as to the start of another Blues career.