CJ Egan-Riley, Luke Mbete, Finley Burns, Josh Wilson-Esbrand and Romeo Lavia all made their Manchester City first team debuts earlier this season, but there could be even more names cropping up soon
First Phil Foden and now Cole Palmer. The Manchester City production line is only just getting started.
While Foden once again dazzled as he pulled the strings in City’s 5-1 thrashing of Club Brugge in the Champions League on Tuesday night, it was the turn of another City youngster to steal the spotlight.
Cole Palmer had only been on the pitch for a matter of minutes before making his mark.
The 19-year-old scanned his surroundings in the middle of the park before galloping into space as Raheem Sterling led another swift City counter.
Palmer then held back on the edge of the area where he was perfectly picked out by fellow substitute Sterling.
The youngster took one touch with his right before caressing a curling left-footed effort past the hapless Simon Mignolet to net his first ever Champions League goal to become only the tenth English teenager to ever net in the competition.
It was a strike with all the skill, composure and class of one of City’s established stars, not a fledgling thrown into the bright lights of Europe’s elite competition.
But that’s just how they make them in Manchester.
Having seen Foden flourish after making the step up from academy to City first team, a plethora of talent, led by Palmer, are knocking on the door as the investment into City’s academy is finally bearing the fruits of its labour.
“Cole (Palmer) is a big talent. Cole is a special player,” City full-back Joao Cancelo told UEFA after Tuesday night’s Champions League triumph in Brugge.
“I also like James McAtee, he’s a great player. Phil Foden proves the Manchester City academy works. They are very promising. Creating and developing some special nights…”
After the club was taken over by the Abu Dhabi United Group in 2008, longevity was one of the principal aims and the opening of the City Football Academy in December 2014 emphasised the club’s desire to look to the future.
The 80-acre training facility, which caters for around 400 youth players at a time, has become a hotbed for the country’s most exciting talents and is finally reaping its rewards.
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In fact, City currently hold a unique treble of 2020-21 Premier League titles at Senior, U23 and U18 level.
And with Foden and Palmer just the start in a long line of talents, you can expect to see even more breaking into Pep Guardiola’s first team.
“I just have to say thank you to the academy,” Guardiola exclaimed after his youthful City side trounced Wycombe Wanderers 6-1 in the Carabao Cup back in September. “They all do an incredible job.
“You have the feeling that we have not just one or two potential players but many of them. The academy gives them the right values to become good professional players and they have the talent.
“We have the feeling that we can count on them. We saw it today a little bit and we know how good they are. As manager of the first team, I can enjoy it, I can use them.”
CJ Egan-Riley, Luke Mbete, Finley Burns, Josh Wilson-Esbrand and Romeo Lavia all made their first team bows that night while the aforementioned McAtee and Palmer featured off the bench, with the latter netting a stunning curler late one.
The result validated Guardiola’s pleas for the EFL to agree to five substitutes within the competition as he looked to seize any available opportunities to bed his blossoming youngsters into first team action, just as he did during his time at Barcelona with their iconic La Masia academy.
Since his arrival, Guardiola’s blueprint has been embedded throughout the club, and his desire to be brave in possession and clinical in the final third can be witnessed at all levels within City’s academy.
Following Palmer’s heroics on Tuesday night, this season already feels like a momentous one for City’s academy as their production line looks set to dominate for years to come.
All eyes will now be on Guardiola’s team selection when his City side travel to West Ham next Wednesday for the next round of the Carabao Cup, where he may well give his promising youngsters another chance to shine.
Watch this space.
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