Nathan Ake is the only member of Manchester City’s squad to have ever been relegated.
The Dutchman woke up from his nightmare season with Bournemouth to realise a dream £41million move to become part of Pep Guardiola’s plans.
Ake hopes to use the experience in the same way Holland team-mate Gini Wijnaldum became a Champions League and Premier League winner with Liverpool after suffering the big drop with Newcastle in 2016.
Whatever happens, the 25-year-old centre-back insists he has nothing to prove as he takes another step in a career that saw him quit the Feyenoord youth system to join Chelsea when he was still a schoolboy, before spending four years helping Eddie Howe’s Cherries punch above their weight.
Ake said: “I have not signed for City thinking I can prove all the critics wrong. I have already proved to myself that I have the ability to play at top level – and I love a challenge. I showed that when I was a kid playing in my hometown in the Hague and I moved to Rotterdam to join Feyenoord. I showed it again when I packed my stuff and moved to Chelsea.
Ake has gone from relegation with Bournemouth to joining City
(Image: Manchester City FC via Getty Images)
“I have had to work incredibly hard to make it to the top – and I know I am ready. I have also achieved my dream of playing for Holland.”
City began monitoring Ake two seasons ago and were on the verge of making a bid last summer. And when left-footed Aymeric Laporte suffered a knee injury that kept him out for most of the campaign, it was to prove a critical decision.
While Liverpool took the title to Anfield, Ake was part of a Bournemouth defence that conceded 65 goals on the way down.
Ake said: “I was desperate to keep Bournemouth up – and we failed. We allowed too many goals against us and I was a defender in the team.
“Yet, apparently people judged my individual performances as alright. Maybe that is ability and experience, to make sure that you keep your own level up all the time.”
The defender jumped at the chance to join City this summer
Ake was on holiday in France when the call came from City. Guardiola had spoken to Dutch coach Ronald Koeman about the defender. And the message back from the man who has just been made coach of Barcelona was that Ake was the real deal.
Ake said: “I had to pinch myself in the arm. I was thinking, ‘Is this real?’.
“When I heard they wanted me to come to Manchester I was bowled over. Manchester City are one of the best clubs in the world and Pep Guardiola is one of the best managers in the world.
“I had a really good talk with Guardiola and there was an instant connection. The way City play really suits me. I have played against them so many times and I know how hard it is to face them.”
Guardiola spoke to Ake before signing him
As soon as Ake signed his contract he began working with his new conditioning specialists at the Etihad.
He added: “I have been working with a physical coach for ages at City.
“I have been told to focus on several positions at the back, but that is fine with me.
“I am going for it. I have grown up in the Premier League in a brilliant way.”
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