Roberto Mancini returned to his native Italy on transfer deadline day to plunder Serie A club Fiorentina for the services of Matija Nastasic. The highly-rated centre-half moves to the Etihad for an undisclosed fee, with Stefan Savic moving the other way as part of the deal.
In his first interview since joining the club, the 19-year-old Serbian spoke of his determination to quickly adapt to his new environment.
When I started to play in Italy I needed some time to adjust, for sure. But I’d made an extra effort to limit this period of change to a minimum and I’m hoping to do the same in England even though the style of football is different from Italy.
Nastasic’s career began in Serbia in the 2009-10 campaign when he was loaned out to at FK Teleoptik Zemun by parent club Partizan Belgrade. The centre-half went on to play 21 times over two seasons for the lower league side but he failed to make a single first-team appearance for Partizan before they sold him to Fiorentina in 2011. Nastasic – nicknamed “the new Nemanja Vidic” – turned out 25 times for the Serie A outfit in 2011-12 and also found the net on a couple of occasions – he featured in the club’s opener this season before Mancini came calling at the end of August.
Although there’s no such thing as a nailed-on City defender aside from Vincent Kompany, Nastasic’s prospects are perhaps not as bad as bad as many fear. First of all, the six foot one defender is more than familiar operating as part of a three-man defence; the majority of his appearances for Fiorentina came within such a system and with Mancini utilising a 3-4-1-2 as a tactical alternative this term, he offers the champions greater mobility at the back than the now-departed Savic.
Also, the club’s Champions League schedule may help him domestically. A group that pits City against Real Madrid, Ajax and Dortmund is unlikely to see Mancini take any chances at the back – given his penchant for rotation, it may well be that he keeps Nastasic for league games as he eases into the first-team fold, with home clashes in particular, a better source of game time. A berth on the left of the three, with compatriot Alex Kolarov on the left of midfield could help make the transition a little easier; Saturday’s game at Stoke saw three of Mancini’s four summer signings handed a starting role, suggesting there will be plenty opportunity to stake a claim as the City boss utilises his squad around the European schedule.
At 5.5 in FPL and 5.0 in the Sky Sports game, Nastasic is relatively cut-price amongst the City backline but his acquisition – like the majority of his defensive team mates – will always carry a degree of uncertainty. Mancini has already been quick to rotate at the back – only Kompany has started the four league games so far, yet Joleon Lescott and Gael Clichy both still have over 10% ownership in FPL. Mancini’s next few team sheets should give us an idea of his thinking and certainly if Nastasic earns some starts he could be a real punt, though the risk of rotation will no doubt deter the vast majority.