Has Manchester City's Patrick Roberts found his forever home in La Liga?
In July, 2015, Manchester City spent £12 million to bring Fulham's highly-rated winger, Patrick Roberts, to the club. Roberts impressed during his time at Craven Cottage, encouraging City, but opportunities came few and far between at the Etihad. Roberts took the pitch for a grand total of 54 minutes across a league match and two League Cup ties before City's brain trust decided he'd progress further on loan.
Rather than send the player out on a short-term loan, City believed a longer spell would be more beneficial. Celtic agreed to an 18-month deal. Roberts packed for Glasgow. He made a good start, scoring six goals and setting up two. Ronny Deila's team won the league but it was during the next season under Brendan Rodgers when the Englishman found his feet. Celtic won the treble. Roberts contributed well with 11 goals and 19 assists across all competitions.
When the loan term expired, Roberts returned to Manchester. After City's pre-season US tour, a second deal was struck, taking him back to Glasgow for another season under Rodgers. This time, success didn't follow. Roberts spent much of the season sidelined due to injuries. When fit, he struggled to displace an in-form James Forrest.
Again, he returned to the Etihad, where City continued to spend money on players in his position. Riyad Mahrez arrived to great fanfare, leaving Roberts' future up in the air. Roberts went to America with City, once more. He participated in a few friendlies but never threatened to change Pep Guardiola's plans. Linked with moves to a few other Premier League sides, the transfer deadline came and passed. The 21-year-old remained at City. The option for a move to Europe still in play, that's exactly what happened. Girona signed the Kingston upon Thames youngster on a season-long loan.
Over the past few seasons, the Citizens and Blanquivermell have enjoyed a strong business relationship. City Football Group own a 44.3% stake in the Catalan side. Although not officially owned by CFG, Girona's taken several players on loan. Part of the 'empire', they'll continue to benefit from such deals over the coming seasons. The question still unanswered is whether City will, too?
Roberts is a technically gifted player, with a superb left foot. Often deployed on the right as an inverted winger, he cuts inside onto his stronger foot to take players on, go for goal himself or put the ball into dangerous areas for his teammates to attack. La Liga rewards good skill and technique. Roberts' strengths make him a perfect fit for the Spanish game.
There's room for improvement. He can be a bit weak on the ball and could do more with his right foot. With Rodgers at Celtic Park, he proved an eager student. This move can be the next step in his development.
Coupling Roberts years north of the border with his time at Fulham and City, it's easy to forget he's just 21. He's come a long way from the boy who signed for City in 2015. The Sky Blues are growing, too, maybe too fast for the youngster. It doesn't appear Pep Guardiola believes he has a future in Manchester. When his time at the Estadi Montilivi ends, there'll be one year on his City contract. Txiki Begiristain and Ferran Soriano may feel it's time to recoup their investment.
Girona are an unlikely permanent destination but there's no reason Spain can't become home. A good season for the Catalan side may put him in the shop window. His game looks perfect for Spain. If his mood matches, there could be a bright future abroad for the exciting young Englishman. Why not? With Jadon Sancho at Borussia Dortmund, Reo Griffiths at Lyon and Jonathan Panzo at Monaco, it's a growing trend.