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Related News (Soccer News)

After nearly walking away from Man City, Kyle Walker is reaping the rewards for staying

Fri, May 24, 2024
Soccer News (AP)

After nearly walking away from Man City, Kyle Walker is reaping the rewards for staying

Kyle Walker had been dropped for the biggest game of his club career. He had issues in his personal life. An offer was on the table from one of Europe's biggest clubs.

It was decision time for the England defender last summer: Was he really going to leave Manchester City?

He couldn't be happier that he opted to stay.

Nearly a year later, Walker will be leading City out at Wembley Stadium for the FA Cup final against Manchester United on Saturday with a chance to add another title to the Super Cup, Club World Cup and Premier League he has already lifted this season.

"Four trophies in your first year of being captain would not be bad," Walker said.

It could all have been so different.

Walker was ready to walk away from English soccer for the first time after the conclusion of last season. Bayern Munich wanted to sign him, having already laid the groundwork for a deal to bring England captain Harry Kane to the club.

Kane did move.

Walker didn't.

"That was a moment in my personal life that I felt I wanted to move away from England and it was nothing to do with footballing reasons," the right back said. "It was something personal to me, where I thought that taking a break from England might have been right for me.

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"But first and foremost, I have to think about the football. It's what I love doing and I felt that, come the end of it, I would be a lot happier at Manchester City than I would be at Bayern Munich."

And so, Walker told City manager Pep Guardiola he would be staying. It was a big call, having just gotten over only being named on the bench for the victory over Inter Milan in the Champions League final that completed a Premier League-FA Cup-European Cup treble for the team.

Guardiola and Walker went for dinner at a Japanese restaurant a week before the start of the new season. Over a 2.5-hour meal, Guardiola made it clear how important Walker was to the squad, how he still counted on him despite leaving him out in Istanbul and having also questioned if he had the credentials to play as a full back in a new-look City team.

"That meal was for him to tell me how much he appreciates me and what I do for the team and what the lads appreciate (about) me," Walker said. "It wasn't for him to beg me to stay because my mind was already made up, so it was just two grown men going out for a bit of dinner."

Already part of City's senior leadership group, Walker was made club captain - a decision that was also influenced by Kevin De Bruyne sustaining a long-term injury on the first day of the season.

He has been one of City's regulars this campaign, sometimes playing as an attacking full back but mainly relied upon to offer that reliability as a defender. Walker has cut out the errors and matured into a dependable right back, maintaining his recovery speed that is second to none.

No one can take away those images of Walker lifting City's first ever Club World Cup trophy in December, or an unprecedented fourth straight English league trophy last weekend.

"We've set the bar so high and I don't think any of us will understand what we are achieving until we've finished football or it goes back to the norm, which I hope isn't very soon and while I'm at City," he said.

"We have to appreciate times like this, individually and collectively. We're part of history and we want this to continue."

By beating United on Saturday, City would become the first team to win the league-and-FA Cup double in back-to-back seasons.

"The motivation speaks for itself," Walker said. "To be the first team to do the "double double," the first team to win four (league titles) in a row, the first team since Manchester United to do the treble -- we keep knocking down these hurdles and this is another that we need to knock down.

"But it's against our rivals who live in the same city and are going to want to rain on our parade."

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AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer

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Article Copyright © 2024 The Associated Press, All Rights Reserved.
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