6 Manchester City Academy Prospects Ready to Step Up Next Season

Rob Pollard@@RobPollard_Featured ColumnistMay 2, 2014

6 Manchester City Academy Prospects Ready to Step Up Next Season

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    Manchester City's academy plans are grand. Opening the Etihad Campus—an 80-acre site home to world-class training and medical facilities—is about as big a statement as the club can make about its intention to produce its own players and become financially self-sufficient. It's remarkably bold in its intent.

    However, until that is established and given time to develop, the club is likely to struggle to bring through academy graduates capable of playing in the first-team. Since the 2008 takeover by Sheikh Mansour, Manchester City have found it increasingly difficult to blood young talent into the side given the jump in the quality of their senior players.

    That's not to say there's no chance, though. Here's a list of seven players the club feels are most likely to make Manuel Pellegrini sit up and take note next season.

1. Jose Angel Pozo

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    Jose Angel Pozo is an 18-year-old forward who City signed from Real Madrid when he was 15. He is highly rated by those who have analysed his progress at City, and he is expected to make the senior side before too long.

    He was the top-scoring academy player in his first season at the club despite being much younger than his opponents. The seamless transition he made convinced almost everyone at City that he has a special talent and is destined for the top.

2. Marcos Lopes

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    Creativity and flair are the defining features of Marcos Lopes' game, and he, arguably more than any other youth player at City, is thought to have a big future.

    He already has a wonderful appreciation of space, his vision and intelligence setting him apart from most other players his age. He proved in his first-team appearances this season, particularly the second leg of City's League Cup semi-final with West Ham, that he has the necessary quality to excel at the senior level.

    Many inside the club are convinced he can make the transition, and few who have seen him play would doubt their assertion.

3. Jason Denayer

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    Jason Denayer is a Belgian international centre-back who joined City from Anderlecht last year.

    He started at his hometown club Ganshoren as a six-year-old before spending two years at Anderlecht. After a period at the Jean-Marc Guillou Academy, he had a successful trial at City and signed permanently.

    He is physically strong and imposing, excellent on the ball with a quick turn of pace. Remember the name.

4. Emyr Huws

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    Like Lopes, Huws is another to have tasted first-team action this season for City when he played in the club's FA Cup replay with Blackburn.

    He has since moved on loan to Birmingham in the Championship, where he has made 16 appearances and scored two goals in the struggling Midlands outfit.

    Huws is a tidy midfielder who can operate in the holding role and is comfortable in possession of the ball. He's played for Wales at U17, U19 and U21 levels and made his senior international debut earlier this year against Iceland.

    His brief involvement in Pellegrini's plans this season shows he has taken the manager's eye and is very much one to watch from City's current crop of youth players.

5. Karim Rekik

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    Karim Rekik may very well spend next season on loan at PSV Eindhoven again, but if he doesn't, he may very well find himself with a squad role at City.

    His season-long loan has been a resounding success. A left-footed centre-half, Rekik spent the first few weeks playing at left-back and improving his ability on the ball, but he has since moved into his preferred centre-back position. He's made 25 appearances for the Dutch side and has impressed.

    With City looking likely to alter their back line considerably in the summer, Rekik may be required to return and begin the process of staking his claim for a place in City's first-team.

6. Jose Angel Tasende

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    Spanish left-back Jose Angel Tasende, known as Angelino, is said to have a bright future. Those involved at City say he has everything needed to become a top-quality, modern-day full-back, one comfortable in possession and adept defensively with the ability to go forward and create.

    He made his EDS debut at just 16, his eye-catching ability to hit a free-kick and his mature understanding of the game setting him ahead of his peers.