Will Brahim Diaz do another Jadon Sancho on Manchester City?
Reports say several European clubs are interested in Brahim Diaz due to his contract situation with Manchester City. The young midfielder, a top talent in City's now-famous academy, hasn't put pen to paper on a new deal with the Premier League champions. Only a year remains on his contract.
Jadon Sancho, Diaz and Phil Foden are three boy wonders to emerge from the Marvel/DC-esque monikered Elite Development Squad. They recall Lionel Messi, Andreas Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez's apprenticeship at La Masia. The man who coached the elder trio in La Liga and Europe has the opportunity to recreate history, but things are not quite towing the same line.
Pep Guardiola is breaking records with Man City to almost everyone's delight. The group less impressed is the next generation of Etihad stars. The Catalan's enjoying little success convincing the EDS heroes to stay with the Sky Blues.
Jadon Sancho surprised many last term when he ditched the Etihad Stadium for Signal Idunna Park. Not even Pep's intervention could change his mind about joining Borussia Dortmund. The young Englishman is now building a name for himself in Germany. At 17, he became the youngest Brit to score in the Bundesliga.
Guardiola has a tough job on his hands integrating the club's most promising academy graduates into his record-breaking squad. Foden is the most fortunate although he is struggling even for a place on the substitutes bench.
For Diaz, it's worse. The 19-year-old featured just once for the Citizens this season, as a second-half substitute against Chelsea in the Community Shield. He's yet to make a single appearance in the Premier League. Looking at the squad, it's difficult to see how his situation can improve.
The squad is so deep the manager could afford to omit Leroy Sane from the matchday squad that faced Newcastle United without a second thought. Players like Bernardo Silva, Ilkay Gundogan, Oleksandr Zinchenko and Riyad Mahrez all struggle for regular game time. They're established stars with Champions League experience. That leaves the young midfielder with an uphill battle to play regular first-team football.
In that light, Diaz weighs his options, understandably reluctant to extend his contract. Who wouldn't be?
City made their own bed and must lie in it. Chairman Khaldoon al Mubarak set a goal for at least one academy graduate to be integrated into the first team every year. Success achieved elsewhere by other youngsters like Kylian Mbappe blazes a new, hopeful trail for eager EDS cadets. How many starlets can be willing to wait several years for their turn? It's a young man's game; they want to play. The word 'wait' is not in their vocabulary.
Matters are building towards the young Spaniard's exit. Sancho's success encourages. Should Diaz leave on a free, however, a bad precedent is set. What then is the real benefit of the academy when its youngsters leave for free after all that has been put into their development?
City must decide where their priorities lie.