Why Dedryck Boyata Has Never Made It at Manchester City

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Why Dedryck Boyata Has Never Made It at Manchester City
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A couple of years ago, it was generally understood there was a bright future ahead of young Belgian defender Dedryck Boyata.

In 2010, when he was 19 years of age, he was called upon to make his debut for Manchester City, where he had come through the ranks of the youth academy. He partnered fellow Belgian and City captain Vincent Kompany in the centre of defence, and throughout the 2010-11 season, he made a total of 19 appearances.

In May this year, Boyata signed a new contract with City. But not because he had been such a huge success in the blue side of Manchester. As per Ian Herbert of The Independent, Boyata’s new deal can possibly be connected to City’s need to fill their quota of homegrown players.

For the truth is that Boyata’s career at Manchester City has been a failure. Four years since his debut and after going through several spells on loan—at Bolton Wanderers and Dutch side FC Twente—the defender is nowhere near a position in manager Manuel Pellegrini’s starting XI.

Considering Boyata’s talent, it’s fair to classify his demise as a waste of potential. But in many ways, it’s difficult to blame the defender himself. At the top clubs in the Premier League, it has become increasingly difficult to even get a foot in as a player coming from a club’s academy.

At Manchester City, Boyata is not the only talented young player who has failed to force his way into the first team. Swedish striker John Guidetti, who used to be regarded as a great talent, looks miles away from Pellegrini’s plans—despite a very successful loan spell at Dutch side Feyenoord two years ago.

A similar state of affairs seems to have become common ground at title rivals Chelsea. There, talented youngsters like Tomas Kalas and Gael Kakuta, who have both performed well during their loan spells at Dutch side Vitesse, are unlikely to feature in a prominent role anytime soon. 

At Manchester United, there seems to be a little more space for youngsters who have come through the ranks of the youth academy—but not that much. In recent years, Belgian wonderkid Adnan Januzaj has been the only youth-academy player to have truly made an impact.

Indeed, only at Arsenal does the youth academy still seems like a stable part of the club’s culture. But even there, manager Arsene Wenger is looking more and more at big signings like Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez.

A lot of this has to do, of course, with the increasing budgets available to the top clubs in the Premier League. Practically able to take their pick from the very best footballers in the world, relatively rich clubs will often refrain from picking a youngster to depend on.

But it is not all doom and gloom, for the less attention the big clubs give to young players, the more often clubs with considerably smaller budgets can snap them up—often on loan—and incorporate them in their first teams. 

A collection of Premier League clubs now work with a clear and mapped-out youth policy. Stoke City, for example, has taken on talented young players like Oussama Assaidi and the aforementioned John Guidetti on loan—with varying success.

At Southampton, the promotion of youth players is a constitutive element to the success they have enjoyed in recent years. By selling some of the players who have broken through, the South English side have reportedly gathered around £90 million already—not bad for a club that played in the Championship only recently.

A player like Romelu Lukaku never got his chance at Chelsea. At West Bromwich Albion, and later at Everton, though, he was allowed to blossom and develop his talents. For a player like Boyata, a career trajectory like Lukaku’s would have been very beneficial.

In the future, then, young players like Boyata would do well to direct their attention to clubs outside of the Premier League’s traditional top four. Only at clubs where faith in young players is part of the plans for the future, do they stand a chance to break through.

After that, they might still end up at one of the Premier League’s top clubs, but only as established and fully developed players.

In the future, young players like Boyata must think of themselves and their own careers first.

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