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Why did Man City sell potential homegrown hero Tosin for just £1.5m?

08:00 GMT 13/03/2021
Tosin Adarabioyo Manchester City Fulham GFX
The defender had been at City from the age of six and was highly rated by academy coaches, but he was allowed to join Fulham last October

Manchester City have always wanted a homegrown hero to break into their first team to prove that there is more to their success than simply expensive signings.

At Fulham on Saturday, Phil Foden will continue his journey from boyhood fan to key player in one of Europe's top teams.

The 20-year-old has been a trailblazer for an academy brimming with talent and the hope is that a number of promising local players, such as Cole Palmer and James McAtee, can follow in his slipstream.

Before Foden, there were Greater Manchester-born players that made first-team appearances but never looked like becoming regulars.

Midfielder George Evans, now at Millwall, defender Cameron Humphreys, currently in Belgium with Zulte Waregem, and Oxford United winger Brandon Barker all impressed, but couldn’t make the step up to becoming regulars in a squad packed with international stars.

For a long time, though, Tosin Adarabioyo looked the most likely to become a first-team regular. A cultured, ball-playing centre-back with an intelligent understanding of the game, the Chorlton-born starlet seemed to have all the attributes required to make the leap.

However, after a handful of first-team appearances and a couple of loan spells at West Brom and Blackburn, he left the Etihad this season, finally cutting his ties to the club he had been with from the age of six.

Consequently, while Foden could well feature in the City forward line, Tosin will be at the heart of the Fulham defence, desperate to secure a win that would boost his side's hopes of avoiding relegation from the Premier League.

Tosin left City this past off-season for an initial fee of just £1.5 million ($2m), with the potential for an extra £500,000 ($690,000) in add-ons, which is now looking like one of the deals of the season.

There is no buy-back option, common in many of the deals that have seen highly-rated academy players leave the club, although City did insert a 20 per cent sell-on clause.

The 23-year-old decided it was the right time to leave after playing regularly and impressing with his composure and quality as a leader during a season-long loan with Championship club Blackburn.

There was also the fact that Ruben Dias and Nathan Ake arrived last summer, which only intensified the competition for places at City, with Aymeric Laporte, John Stones and Eric Garcia already on the books, and academy duo Taylor Harwood-Bellis and Luke Mbete-Tabu considered top prospects.

West Ham and Everton were understood to be interested in taking Tosin but he opted for a deadline-day switch to Craven Cottage and, so far, the deal is working out extremely well for both parties.

Since making his debut in a 1-1 draw at Sheffield United in the middle of October, he has not missed a minute of Premier League action.

Tosin has struck up a strong partnership with Danish centre-back Joachim Andersen, a key development in giving the Cottagers the kind of shot at survival that looked impossible after just two wins from their opening 22 matches.

Now, though, Fulham are level on points with 17th-placed Brighton, having won three of their last six, and conceding just twice in the process.

They will also go into the City game buoyed by a stellar defensive display that consigned reigning champions Liverpool to another defeat at Anfield last weekend.

“Tosin and Joachim have been really solid," Parker said ahead of the visit from City. "With great teams, you find the most important pairing is the central defenders. It's key and pivotal.

“They have formed a very good partnership and performed well, along with the whole defensive unit. As a team, we've also defended much better.

“That's helped with how solid we've been. It's in large part down to the partnership between them.”

While Tosin's success will be welcomed by the coaches that helped him progress through the academy, there will be a sense of disappointment that he didn’t make it in Manchester.

He first joined City as a six-year-old and even turned down Manchester United when they made an approach.

He captained a number of the club's youth sides and led the Under-18s to the FA Youth Cup final in 2015, when they were beaten by a Chelsea side that included Tammy Abraham.

He made his first-team debut as an 18-year-old in the FA Cup quarter-final defeat to Chelsea in 2016 and former captain Vincent Kompany became something of a mentor, claiming that the youngster had a key role to play at City going forward.

City felt the same and when his contract was set to expire in 2018, they gave him a lucrative new deal to ward off Premier League rivals.

Pep Guardiola was delighted, having been left in no doubt about the stopper's massive potential after seeing him turn in impressive displays against Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund shortly after he arrived as manager in 2016.

“He is fast, strong in the air, and has the quality to look forward behind the line for the next pass,” the Catalan told reporters. “He definitely has a future in the first team. 

“He is a nice guy, his mind is open, he listens, he trains every day like it’s the last training of his life and I like to work with these kinds of players a lot.”

However, a loan spell at West Brom in 2018-19 didn't go well. He struggled to nail down a regular starting spot and was often forced to play at full-back.

He restored his confidence during his year at Blackburn, though, and Fulham are now reaping the rewards. 

Another big performance at Craven Cottage on Saturday would only intensify the feeling that City may have given away a potential homegrown hero for next-to-nothing.