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Brahim and Sancho gone – but Man City have other teenage sensations

12:00 GMT 08/01/2019
Pep Guardiola Southampton vs Manchester City Premier League 2018-19
The Premier League champions have lost two of their brightest academy hopes but they remain in possession of several other potential stars

Brahim Diaz's move to Real Madrid, coupled with Jadon Sancho's transfer to Borussia Dortmund, means that Manchester City have now lost two of their brightest academy prospects in the past 18 months.

As a result, there will be plenty of eyes on their youth ranks in a bid to establish which kids, if any, will have a genuine chance of making the first team in the future.

Phil Foden is obviously the club's greatest hope, and a role model for players even younger than him who hope to get a similar opportunity in the future.

However, following the departures of Diaz and Sancho, primarily over a lack of playing opportunities at the Etihad, it is strikingly obvious that the level required to break into the senior squad, alongside some of the world's best players, is incredibly high and many youngsters will not get as many opportunities as they would like, or need.

The City academy continues to be successful – the U16s, U14s, U13s and U11s all won their respective age groups at the recent Premier League International Cup – and there are a number of current and former players who trust the youth system with their own kids, such as Fernandinho, assistant coach Mikel Arteta and former United midfielder Darren Fletcher.

Yet while many academy graduates will go on to have a very good career in football, the standard at City is something else entirely.

Right now, there are few players aged between 16 or 18 generating as much of a media frenzy as Foden, Brahim and Sancho did before them.

However, there are one or two who appear to have what it takes to earn an opportunity in the first team, and plenty more in younger age groups who have been tipped for big things in the years to come...


The former captain of Barcelona's youth teams has already made his senior debut for City, and looked very comfortable in doing so. The 17-year-old is a ball-playing centre-back whose maturity shines through both on the pitch and off it. 

Garcia broke into the City team during the pre-season trip to the United States and caught the eye with some commanding performances, and that was the case once again when he faced Leicester City in the Carabao Cup in December.

In all of his senior appearances he has been seen ordering his considerably more experienced team-mates around. 

“Eric Garcia is 17 or 18 and played like he is 24 or 25,” Pep Guardiola said after one pre-season outing.

And Garcia sees it as a vital part of his role to be telling the likes of Kyle Walker and Nicolas Otamendi what they need to be doing. 

"I always say when we are on the pitch we are all the same team," he said last month. "I think if we speak to each other it is better for the team, because you try to help your team-mates and at the end that’s the most important thing.

"Obviously with the age there’s a lot of difference but I just feel that I need to do it."


McNeill is just 14 but has been making a name for himself in the City academy for the past few years.

The tall forward has proven to be impressive with both feet and has scored a bagful of goals at all junior levels: 110 goals and 38 assists in 72 games for City's U15s and England's U16s.

Those familiar with the City youth set-up believe he is one of the best prospects of any age group and is definitely one to keep an eye on in the coming years.


Nmecha (above, right) was named on the bench against Leicester in the Carabao Cup, a reflection of his excellent reputation in the City academy.

The 18-year-old attacking midfielder has already captained the U23 side this season and is said to be a better player than his older brother, Lukas (above, left), who is on loan at Preston and actually scored a shoot-out penalty at Leicester in the Carabao Cup last season.

Felix, who has dual nationality and has represented both England and Germany at youth level, is strong and fast and has caught the eye with many authoritative displays in his eight years in the City academy.

He has trained with Guardiola's first team on several occasions recently and is said to have impressed the Catalan, whereas some youngsters to have received the call-up have left something to be desired when it comes to their attitude.

Fisayo Dele-Bashiru is another to have impressed Guardiola in senior training, while Jeremie Frimpong, a full-back who can play on the left or the right, has done likewise and could even make a Carabao Cup squad this season, although perhaps only if City rack up a big first-leg lead in Wednesday's semi-final against Burton.


Doyle is known to many City fans already as he is the grandson of two club legends, Mike Doyle and Glyn Pardoe. 

He is the England U17 captain and scored twice at the U17 European Championship last season before being sidelined by a metatarsal break.

That injury hampered his progress midway through 2018 but by that point he had already turned out for City's U23s – a sign of his pedigree – and featured in the U19 UEFA Youth League competition.

Doyle has been at City since he was eight years old – the club's official website says he was scoring 80 goals a season for Sandbach FC before that.

Over the years he has been converted into a defensive midfielder and it is from that position that he has earned a reputation around the club as a player of enormous potential.



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Knight, 16, joined City from Ipswich last summer for a reported fee of £700,000 ($893,000) and has gone straight into the U18 set-up.

The diminutive playmaker says he models his game on David Silva, and he has caught the eye with his dribbling skills over the years.

He was coached by Kieron Dyer at Ipswich and the former England international has compared the youngster to Lionel Messi in terms of his ability and small stature.

City were first linked with a move for Knight in 2016, when he was just 13, and had to see off interest from Tottenham – including a personal intervention from Mauricio Pochettino – to finally get their hands on him.

Knight, whose uncle Nick played cricket for England, has lived up to the hype in his first months at the club and is expected to have a big future at the Etihad.


City could have paid just £34,000 ($43,000) to sign Burns from Southend but agreed to a £175,000 ($223,000) deal, which could rise to £250,000 ($319,000), to sign him last January – when he was just 13.

Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool were said to be interested in the centre-back but City ensured they would not miss out, and he has impressed coaches in his first 12 months at the club.

He is still just 14 but is a considerable presence on the pitch and has also represented England at U15 level.