Palmer, Kayky, Delap and the Man City wonderkids who could follow in Foden's footsteps

Phil Foden Cole Palmer Liam Delap Kayky Manchester City GFXGetty/GOAL

Manchester City boast an incredible youth academy and several graduates now look perfectly poised to make a big impact in the Premier League.

There are, of course, those that will have to move away from the Etihad Stadium to realise their dream of making it in the big time, with Gavin Bazunu, Darko Gyabi and Romeo Lavia all set to move to rivals this summer.

However, a number of potential stars look capable of following in Phil Foden's footsteps by becoming key players in Pep Guardiola's first team.

Indeed, with City once again set to compete on four fronts – and this time during a World Cup year – several talented youngsters should get a chance to shine in 2022-23.

Below, GOAL takes a look at the players most likely to earn some game time under Guardiola this season…

  • Cole Palmer Manchester City 2021-22Getty Images

    Cole Palmer

    The emergence of Cole Palmer is one of the reasons why City allowed Gabriel Jesus to join Arsenal for £45 million ($55m).

    There is a strong belief among first-team coaches that the forward has the quality and the personality to become an important member of the senior squad.

    The 20-year-old has already shown his skills and ability in his 13 competitive appearances to date, including a Champions League goal away to Club Brugge and a dazzling FA Cup performance against Swindon.

    "Cole has a special quality that's difficult to find, he finishes it most of the time," Guardiola said after City's win in Belgium. "He's training with us and taking our principles. He's a player for the future of this club."

    Injuries cut short his opportunities last season but he will continue his development this term, following a similar path to Phil Foden with cameos and domestic cup appearances.

  • Luke Mbete

    Luke Mbete

    The London-born defender has been talked about as a prospect since he joined from Brentford as a 13-year-old and he made his first-team debut in the Carabao Cup last season.

    "He trained with us for a long time and his application is really high," Guardiola said of Mbete when he was part of the first-team squad for a Champions League last-16 tie with Sporting CP.

    Strong and with a good reading of dangerous situations, Mbete has plenty of the traits that the City boss likes to see from his central defenders.

    Now, it's about gaining experience and he will get plenty of that training with the first team on a regular basis this season.

    “I feel I am learning and improving all the time and there couldn’t be a better club to keep developing," Mbete said after signing a contract extension until 2027.

  • Kayky Manchester CityGetty Images


    City spent an initial £9m ($12m) in April 2021 to secure the services of the 17-year-old, who had already made his debut for Brazilian side Fluminese.

    Moving to Europe at such a young age, it was always thought that he would take time to bed in from both a footballing and personal perspective, which is why he was given the opportunity to grow in the Elite Development Squad (EDS).

    A left-footed winger who often plays on the right, Kayky boasts that classic Brazilian flair for dribbling but he is still getting used to the positional requirements at City.

    However, his strength and conditioning have already improved since arriving in Manchester and he should add to his game time in the Premier League (just six minutes to date) and the FA Cup (four) this season.

    "He’s very young," Guardiola said. "We know of his talent; otherwise, City wouldn’t have signed him. He’s very smart, very prepared."

  • James McAtee Manchester City 2021-22Getty

    James McAtee

    After an outstanding campaign for the EDS, the 19-year-old was named Premier League 2 Player of the Season thanks to 18 goals and seven assists in just 23 appearances.

    His balance and vision earned him the nickname 'The Salford Silva' and by adding a killer instinct to his game, he has become an even more dangerous player than before.

    The midfielder has made six appearances for the first team and signed a contract extension keeping him at the club until 2026 in February.

    "It's important he's fully committed to the club, he's a City supporter, and he loves to be here," Guardiola said. "We have a lot of confidence in him."

    However, it must be noted that a number of clubs have shown an interest in taking him on loan this summer, particularly after his call-up to the England under-21 squad.

  • Josh Wilson-Esbrand

    Josh Wilson-Esbrand

    The left-back position has been a peculiar spot for City, with Joao Cancelo and Oleksandr Zinchenko filling in there despite it not being their preferred positions.

    Hardly surprising then that City have been linked with the likes of Marc Cucerella of Brighton during the summer transfer window.

    But there could be a potential opportunity for a powerful, attacking full-back like Esbrand-Wilson to stake a claim for a starting spot.

    He impressed on his first-team debut in the Carabao Cup victory over Wycombe Wanderers, getting forward quickly and setting up a goal for Riyad Mahrez with an intelligent pull-back.

    There were a number of clubs watching Wilson-Esbrand when his contract at City was running down before he signed an extension keeping at the Etihad until 2027.

  • Liam Delap Manchester City Fulham FA Cup 2021-22Getty

    Liam Delap

    Opportunities for the young striker might be harder to come by following the arrival of Erling Haaland and Julian Alvarez.

    But there is no doubting the potential of this strong and dynamic forward who has actually drawn comparisons with the Norwegian striker.

    Given City have essentially played without an orthodox No.9 for the best part of two seasons, Delap has been given the occasional chance to shine, scoring a brilliant goal on his debut against Bournemouth in the Carabao Cup.

    Injuries disrupted his appearances last season but Guardiola has been impressed with his attributes, describing him as a "killer".

    Delap, then, is another player gathering interest from outside the club and a loan move could aid his development.

  • Shea Charles

    Shea Charles

    Yet to play for the first team, the 18-year-old already has three caps for Northern Ireland, after making his debut in the recent Nations League internationals.

    Manchester-born Charles signed his first professional contract in July 2021 and has become a regular for the EDS team.

    He plays mostly as a defensive midfielder but also has the flexibility to play in other positions.

    Charles has trained with City's first team and Northern Ireland coach Ian Barraclough believes he is making good progress at club level as well as for his international team.

    “We are in contact with the Man City coaches who look after Shea day in, day out and they are delighted with the way he has developed,” he said.

  • Oscar Bobb

    Oscar Bobb

    No player racked up more minutes during the EDS' title-winning campaign than the 18-year-old Norwegian youth international, who was named his side's Player of the Season.

    Bobb is an exciting left-footed winger that plays on the right and he is blessed with great skill and an eye for goal.

    In 26 appearances for Barry-Murphy's side, he scored seven times and added nine assists – more than any other player in the squad.

    He is yet to play for the first team but was on the bench for the FA Cup victory over Swindon and has been a regular around Guardiola's squad.

    Another rewarded with a new contract in February, Bobb will be pushing for opportunities in 2022-23.

  • Tai Sodje

    Others players to look out for

    As well as claiming the Premier League title last season, City also won the Premier League 2 title and the Under-18s title to highlight the strength of the players coming through.

    With so many departures expected, either permanently or on loan, many of the under-18s will step up in age group, with the aim of strengthening their cases for inclusion in the first team.

    Among them will be Portuguese winger Carlos Borges, who has 23 goals and 22 assists from just 28 under-18 appearances and is expected to become a regular at a higher age-bracket.

    Another pacy and skillful winger Adedire Mebude has also caught the eye, while fellow forward Tai Sodje has scored 20 goals from 29 outings for the under-18s.

    Meanwhile, Josh Adam, Nico O’Reilly, Rico Lewis and Kian Breckin will all be hoping to feature regularly in Brian Barry-Murphy's EDS squad this season.