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Man City youth academy – The next real deal

Friday 18th August 2017
Football's four biggest clubs are renowned for strong youth programs. While largely relying on imports now, a Man City youth academy is being built to rival all.

Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester United, and Bayern Munich are all respected for developing young players, even if they sell most on to other clubs rather than promoting to the first team. There is a sense in some circles that those programs have become archaic, or have lost their way. Those who make the argument stress the need for a strong youth program to maintain elite status. Despite supporters' wishes, clubs can't rely solely on securing premium talent in the market to preserve their identity.

Pep Guardiola's influence at the Etihad is not limited to what is seen on match days. It stretches to the back room and training ground. He came to City from Bayern Munich because people he knew and trusted to help him build the club were already in place. Txiki Begiristain and Ferran Soriano had already arrived from Barcelona, in 2012, to begin the project. The trio are working together to give City the foundation to be added to that elite foursome.
Begiristain and Soriano are happy for Guardiola to be the face of the Man City youth academy transformation because he reads from the same page they do. After four years dealing with Roberto Mancini and Manuel Pellegrini's differing philosophies, there is now a unified management team in place. So, it's with their blessing that Pep is given all the credit.
Upon arriving, Guardiola signed off on a complete squad make-over, from the roots up. He has taken heavy criticism for the club's equally heavy transfer spending. Unfortunately, youth set-ups don't grow overnight. No magic beans here. While expensive new signings Ederson, Bernardo Silva, Benjamin Mendy, and Kyle Walker have made the Citizens the bookmakers' favourite for 2017-18, its youth academy could crown the Sky Blues kings of the game for a long while.

Talent is there for all to see. Pablo Fernandez, Patrick Roberts and Aleix Garcia are registered with City. All City's youngsters are technically sound. Their mindset is what sets them apart from the rest, however. Influenced by his own La Masia tutelage, Guardiola has taught them to always think tactically. Their ability to conform to tactical rules and serve a role within a team is admirable in players so young. City's youth have a very close understanding of each other's skills. They work very well together. Their cohesion was demonstrated by the U21's runner-up league finish and the U18's championship.

Guardiola is a giant at Manchester City. His impact seeps into every nook and cranny. Young players are treated like they matter. Following his appointment, he quickly brought the youth and first teams together to train. Stars such as Angelino, Garcia, Tosin Adarabioyo were promoted to the first team.
This isn't necessarily new. Kelechi Iheanacho was promoted to the first team by Pellegrini. Still, a cohesive plan formed by management and spearheaded by Guardiola, allows the 46-year-old to develop his philosophy club-wide.

He had similar achievement at the Nou Camp, bringing up stars such as Busquets, Iniesta, Pedro and Lionel Messi from La Masia. With the City pipeline still under construction, he holds nothing back to purchase a player that he needs. Yet, he is still willing to place trust in younger players. Huge responsibility has been thrust on Phil Flodden's shoulders this pre-season. Guardiola has earned rave reviews for the "bold" move.

Youth success is not totally dependent on the Catalan triumvirate. Manchester City's oil-rich owner and City Football Group bear the financial burden. City Football Group comprises the parent and three satellite clubs where young players can be sent to develop internally. Essentially, this network is a global, post-graduate academy.

A-League's Melbourne City, MLS's New York City FC. and J1 League's Yokohama Marinos are competitive sides where the City philosophy can be furthered. Former Barcelona striker David Villa and City executive Patrick Vieira are fixtures with NYCFC. Warren Joyce, long in charge of the Manchester United set-up bosses Melbourne. City only holds a minority stake in Yokohama, limiting its control over the club's direction.
The organisation also has a partnership with recently promoted Girona, in La Liga. Such relationships exploit the loan system by sending players to clubs whose tactics closely resemble City's. Experience with different styles, though not too different, can be beneficial. Patrick Roberts' highly successful loan to Celtic proved he was ready for the big time at City.

Expect several of these players to hone their skills so well they one day grace the Etihad pitch. City are using the loan system to fully develop its best talent, not just rid itself of surplus players.

Pep is concocting a special brew. The Man City youth academy's next generation looks very bright. Regardless what 2017-18 brings, Pep has been monumental in these players' careers, their tactics and mentality. These young talents could be his Ethihad legacy. Their growth and development should continue to be prioritised by the Manchester City board.
Adebayo Temitope

Temitope, an ardent soccer fan. I may be based in Lagos but I watch as much European football as I can. I've been writing about football for several years, before I joined IRIAW you may have seen my work on The Football Weeks. I'm also a keen music fan


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