When the Abu Dhabi United group purchased Manchester City, they had great ambitions for the club and the financial resources to ensure that they wouldn’t have to be too patient to witness their investment pay dividends. However, while they went about splurging nearly £500 million on players that rewarded them with a FA Cup and Premier League title over four years, Pep Guardiola won 14 trophies with Barcelona during the same period.
Like several clubs around the world, City have been infatuated with emulating the mighty Blaugrana but at the moment their cavalier attitude in the transfer market and failure to breed their own young players, likens them to Real Madrid rather than their domestic rivals.
While Barcelona’s side predominantly consists of home-grown talent, those of Madrid’s and City’s incorporate the acquired talents of star players from around the world. City can only boast of one graduate from their youth academy who is consistently included in the first team squad; Micah Richards. Similarly, Madrid have only Iker Casillas to show for their youth set-up although Jose Callejon threads on the periphery of the first team.
Richards is their only academy graduate
Madrid have a reputation for buying ready-made stars rather than developing them. The famous ‘Galacticos’ era epitomized their mind-set when it comes to assembling a team. Over the past decade, few Madrid youth academy products have featured for the first team and even fewer have gone on to be regulars. While Casillas and Guti were successful in establishing themselves players like Raul Bravo and Fransisco Pavon played bit-part roles in the squad when they served at the Santiago Bernabeu for a few years before moving on in search of regular playing time.
City have shown massive ambition by pushing forward with their plans to build a huge academy complex that promises to be state of the art. The complex will be based beside the Etihad stadium and will have its own mini-stadium which should hold a capacity of 7000. There will be 16 pitches including a half-sized goalkeeper’s pitch. The complex will be home to 400 players at a time and spans over 5.5 acres.The Citizens have even gone as far as to hire Txiki Begiristan, the former Barcelona technical director as their director of football. No doubt Begisristan will be involved in ensuring that the new youth academy strives to meet the standards set by Barcelona’s famous La Masia academy. If there was an actual blueprint for Barcelona’s success, you could be sure that City have done everything in their power to get their hands on it.
However, apart from getting the materialistic tools in place, they will also have to adopt the philosophy and beliefs of the Catalans which could be far more difficult to do. Despite building the perfect training complex and recruiting some of the Barcelona staff, they can’t expect to wait around until the academy produces a Xavi Hernandez or Andres Iniesta. They will need to put faith in the promising young players who do come through and nurture them until they are the complete package. Furthermore, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be doing that already.
City can't wait around for the next Xavi or Iniesta
Players like Abdul Razak and Michael Johnson are promising talents who have graduated from their academy and play for the reserves but they rarely see any time on the pitch for the first team. Luca Scapuzzi, Alex Nimely and Denis Suarez may not have been part of their youth set-up but are still gifted young players who don’t get first team opportunities.
The argument could be made that these young players could have had more opportunities at the likes of Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool, clubs who are always looking to integrate youngsters into the first team. It’s time City start trusting the youngsters they have at this moment in time instead of spending millions to recruit the finished article.
Their attempts to emulate Barcelona’s La Masia academy is admirable and is definitely a step in the right direction but there is a lot more to the Catalans’ model for success than just that. They need to restrict their spending in the transfer market and stop recruiting their very own batch of ‘Galacticos’. They need to divert from the Real Madrid mind-set, take the very best of Barcelona’s and implement that into their own. They have the ability and certainly will have the facilities very soon to change the way they operate but as things stand, they are closer to emulating Real Madrid than Barcelona.
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