It’s a good time to be in the Manchester City Academy set-up. I have noted previously in my blogs that the club are totally serious about youth and integrating its most talented youngster into the first-team picture – something which has happened on many occasions this season.
With City’s youth system gathering some momentum, I pick out five City prospects to watch out for.
Aged just 17, Manu Garcia has already made his debut for Manchester City when he entered the fray against Sunderland in the 4-1 Capital One Cup win in September. It marked a real upwards spiral for the young Spaniard, who has now emerged as one of the club’s most talented prospects.
Many City fans were disappointed with the departures of Jose Angel Pozo and Marcos Lopes in the summer, but Garcia appears to be highly rated by the club and looked mightily impressive in pre-season.
In the Silva/Cazorla mould, he is technically sound, an accomplished passer and an all-round intelligent footballer who is not afraid to put a shift in despite his slight frame. He could go far.
Another player with first-team appearances to his name, Kelechi Iheanacho has featured regularly in recent weeks following the Blues’ deep injury list. Injuries to Aguero and Wilfried Bony has opened up a couple of chances for the Nigerian – who seized one of those by grabbing a last-gasp winner at Crystal Palace.
He has been in and around the first-team for a while having starred in the club’s 2014 pre-season tour but has had some horrid luck with injuries.
Towards the latter end of last season he returned to fitness and shone for Patrick Vieira’s EDS side and has now forced his way into Pellegrini’s plans.
A striker with great technique and instinct, expect him to get minutes in the cup competitions and lower league games.
It’s very difficult to replace someone of Pablo Zabaleta’s ilk at right-back but the long-term replacement for the Argentine may already be in City’s ranks.
His namesake, Maffeo, has earned rave reviews from avid Academy watchers and has featured on the bench for a good chunk of City’s games this season.
Much like his master, the defender plays with his heart on his sleeve and brings unimaginable energy on the right flank. Though Bacary Sagna has been remarkably consistent this season, it may not be too long before we see Maffeo at first-team level.
Now no longer a scholar at the club, Cameron Humphreys is destined for a bright future in the game and has endured an unbelievable few months.
Local lad Humphreys, capable of playing at full-back or in central defence, was the youngest member of the travelling band in City’s pre-season tour at the tender age of 16.
Even better, he capped off a great tour with a start against Ronaldo, Bale, Benzema and the mighty Real Madrid at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
In terms of his playing style, he is incredibly quick, reads the game brilliantly and has composure behind his years. If all goes to plan, he will be a real gem of a defender for the Blues in the future.
Finally, Brandon Barker is a player a lot of City fans have high hopes for, having seen him tear a number of full-backs to shreds last season for the EDS.
As a winger, he is blessed with tremendous pace and regularly beats his full-back in one-on-one situations, whether that be on the inside or outside. He just loves taking on defenders and his unpredictable style makes him a pain to play against.
Strangely though, he has not made a competitive appearance for the City first-team – though has come close by making the bench on a few occasions. He does train with Silva, De Bruyne and co. on a regular basis however and was tied down to a new five-year deal this summer – highlighting just what City think of him.
What he needs is a loan move playing competitive football and that could come in the form of Valencia, who have been linked with a January loan swoop for the 18-year old.