Manchester City Centre-Back Manuel Akanji is Hungrier Than Ever

Hypebeast caught up with Akanji to discuss life in Manchester, playing for Pep Guardiola, his passion for footwear and more.

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Manuel Akanji is currently playing some of the best football of his career.

The Nigerian-Swiss defender has been a calming presence in Pep Guardiola’s side since signing for Manchester City in 2022, helping the squad win a historic treble last season, featuring the club’s third-successive Premier League title, FA Cup and first-ever Champions League. While Akanji has now cemented himself as part of one the best football teams of all time, his journey to the top hasn’t been easy.

Akanji’s football career started at his local club in Wiesendangen in 2007, where the 28-year-old changed clubs to become a youth player for FC Winterthur. He featured for the Under-18 team and later with their second team, before FC Basel signed him in 2015. Akanji then proceeded to win the Swiss Super League championship for two consecutive years.

The defender’s taste for silverware only became greater at this point, with Akanji making his next move to German superclub Borussia Dortmund in 2018, with his ball-playing ability winning him praise from around the world of football.

However, fearless football – partnered with a love for passing – is what Pep Guardiola has built his record-breaking reputation on. The City boss signed Akanji for this exact reason, utilizing his skills as a ball-playing center-back with a courageous eye for breaking the lines and stepping into midfield – a new tactical approach to how defenders are used in the modern game.

Today, Manuel Akanji is in the form of his life and is quickly becoming the complete package for a modern-day defender – one that needs to be more technically aware than most when playing for a Guardiola side. Now, with two Premier League titles and a treble since joining the current champions, Akanji is hungrier than ever.

Hypebeast caught up with Akanji at Manchester City’s training ground to discuss life in the Rainy City, playing for Pep Guardiola, the new Together: Treble Winnners documentary on Netflix, and more.

Hypebeast: Hey Manuel! How is the season going so far?

Manuel Akanji: Everything is good, we have a lot of points still to play for. A lot of things can still happen, I hope we can get maximum points and be champions at the end of the season – but we don’t have sleepless nights about this, we’re still calm about what the outcome will be.

How have you found acclimatizing to life in Manchester since your transfer to City?

I don’t live in the city center, I drive through it when I come to training, but I really like the walks you can do. Even if it rains – even more than in Switzerland – I don’t really care because it’s still really nice in nature. There are also a lot of nice restaurants that I go to with my family, so we’ve been enjoying our time here. If I come to the city, I like to go to Italian restaurants – there’s one that Erling [Haaland] told me to go to, and I also like to order at the Indian restaurant that is close to our house on a cheat day.

“In Nigeria, I like to help kids who didn’t have the same luck that I had with growing up in Switzerland.”

Manchester is known as being a city full of good people. Do you feel like you have been accepted into the city?

Definitely. I’ve noticed that the people in Manchester are really kind to my kids. When we bump into people, they tend to make conversations with my kids – which I think is really nice. If I’m not here at the club, I’m with my family, so it’s a really important thing; we’re feeling really happy and settled and it never feels like you’re not welcomed. Even when bumping into Manchester United fans, there’s sometimes a bit of banter, but they’re just supporting their club so it’s fine.

Aside from the Champions League final and winning the treble, what has been your favorite moment in a Manchester City shirt?

Personally, a really big game that I loved was when we played at home against Bayern Munich. I played as a full-back and they were attacking us with Gnabry, Coman, and Sane – there was a lot of one vs one’s and I felt like I had a really nice game there. Also, there was the Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid, I think this was the best game I have ever been involved in – it was unbelievable, the way we played in the semi-final. Scoring more goals has also been a target, and I’m happy I’ve been able to do so this season, so I’m really happy.

Manchester City has some of the best young talent in the world. What players in the squad do you think have really bright futures?

We have a lot of great young players who are training with us at the moment. Jacob Wright is one, he’s been doing a really good job. There’s so many young players who are coming up and they’re not scared, they’re just trying to do their thing and that’s what I like about them – just come up and show us what you can do. They give it all and it’s the right mentality. Oscar Bobb has improved so much too, he has been training with us for a while, but this season he has been learning more from all the other players. He’s a baller.

Do you have any plans for helping the younger generation of footballers coming through?

In Nigeria, I like to help kids who didn’t have the same luck that I had with growing up in Switzerland. In Nigeria, there are not a lot of resources that allow kids to play football and practice in the ways that they want to. I am also working with schools in Nigeria. I haven’t built an academy or anything yet, but I am working as hard as I can right now to help these kids in Nigeria. I don’t know what my plan is going to be once I retire, but I know I want to go over to Nigeria soon so I can help the people there. I don’t have any solid plans yet, but I will make sure something will be put in place after my football career.

A lot of Premier League footballers are arriving at training in clean fits these days. Do you like to dress well for training when you know the cameras are going to be there?

I don’t care if the cameras are there or not – I’ll try to put on a great outfit when I know there aren’t going to be any cameras there. I like to dress well and I think the only time I come into training with a tracksuit on is the day after a game because I’m just tired.

Normally, I like to dress well – it’s really important to me, I think it’s a reflection of how you show yourself – we have a lot of players in the team that think the same way and we wind each other up about it, but I like it.

A lot of people say Bernardo Silva is the worst-dressed player at Man City, would you agree?

[Laughs] I mean, he doesn’t care about what he wears, he just arrives in his tracksuit and Birkenstocks! He doesn’t care, so that’s probably why people say that.

What are your favorite brands that you like to wear?

I really like Acne Studios, I have always been keeping up to date with what they’re releasing. But to be fair, I don’t care what brand it is that I’m wearing. It can be an expensive one, but sometimes I can wear a plain T-shirt or something, it doesn’t matter – as long as it looks good and I like it, that’s the most important thing to me, and then the fun part comes with finding the right outfit to combine it with.

“I like to dress well – it’s really important to me, I think it’s a reflection of how you show yourself.”

Talk to us about your passion for footwear. Do you have a big collection at home?

Yeah, I have a big collection! I’ve had to change it up a lot recently as I used to be partnered with Nike but now I’m with PUMA. But, I like a lot of PUMA shoes, such as the Suede, I have a lot of different colors – I like to change it up.

Music is a big part of football, whether that’s during the journeys to a game or in the dressing room. Who are you listening to right now and who is mainly in charge of the music in the squad?

My favorite artist is Burna Boy. I spoke with him after the Champions League final. I love listening to Afrobeats, so I would say him. I like listening to Drake – but I think everyone does – and I like Lil Baby as well. I would say the person who has the most control over the music in the squad is Jack Grealish, he has all sorts of music. If I put the music on, it would be mostly Afrobeats and some rap. But Jack has everything, from old school songs to new rap and even rock music and house. So, it’s easy with him as he has something that everyone likes.

The new documentary, Together: Treble Winners, has just been released on Netflix, documenting City’s treble-winning campaign last season. How excited are you to check it out?

I’m looking forward to looking back on the season. We’ll see how it is. I haven’t seen it yet, but it was a historical season last year and I will definitely enjoy watching it.

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