Manuel Pellegrini was appointed Manchester City manager in 2013 and trumpeted for his “holistic" abilities. The days of City employing a man concerned only with first-team affairs were a thing of the past. Pellegrini would assume a far-reaching remit, which included overseeing the development of the club’s young players.
It hasn’t quite worked out like that. Pellegrini’s focus has almost exclusively been on the senior squad, which is understandable given the pressure he's been under to win trophies. Last season, he was rarely seen at the Academy Stadium until the campaign was drawing to a close, and he was criticised for not giving chances to the best of the current young crop.
There have been a few Elite Development Squad players, though, who have caught his eye. The obvious one is Kelechi Iheanacho, a player now very much a part of the first-team furnishings at the Etihad Stadium, and another is 18-year-old Manu Garcia.
The Spaniard, who started at Sporting Gijon’s academy before his move to East Manchester in 2013, was part of the club’s entourage on the preseason tour of Australia and was continually singled out for praise by the City boss.
This season, he’s made two first-team appearances and scored his first senior goal in the League Cup win over Crystal Palace back in October. Pellegrini, clearly, likes what he sees.
His goal showed remarkable composure. He made a run from deep—highlighting his desire to influence the game in the final third—before controlling Iheanacho's pass superbly, taking another touch to steady himself and slipping it past Wayne Hennessey. His maturity was clear in that one passage of play.
Garcia is very often compared to David Silva. A technically excellent player whose vision and passing are the central elements of his game, he can influence things high up the pitch, with creativity seemingly part of his footballing makeup.
But he appears adaptable, too. His defensive contribution has improved significantly over the past 18 months, and he looks to be a player capable of sitting and dictating play from deep, in the style of, say, Luka Modric at Real Madrid.
“Manu is a guy I really like,” Silva said in December. “His attitude is like how I was when I was his age. Apart from that, in terms of football ability, he’s got very good skills. He’s very young and I’m sure there’s a lot to come.”
Technically, there’s little Garcia lacks. His touch is outstanding, and his appreciation of space, for such a young player, is remarkable. He appears to see the game with absolute clarity, aware at all times who is around him and what their movements are. Invariably, he picks the right option, thanks to his excellent judgement and decision-making.
Perhaps the only stumbling block to more time on the pitch with the first team is his slight frame. Garcia still has some developing to do and, at present, lacks the physicality needed to play alongside senior players on a regular basis.
But that’s something the staff at the City Football Academy (CFA) will be working on. It is their job to prepare players for the first team. It isn’t enough for them to be technically proficient; they have to be physically and mentally equipped, too.
City are thorough in their teaching. They don’t want to simply produce good young footballers, they also want them to be respectful, decent people who will represent the club in the best possible way.
They are educated rigorously and have high expectations placed on them. Garcia is fulfilling their demands and then some. He's one of the players earmarked for the first team, of that there is no doubt.
Rob Pollard is Bleacher Report's lead Manchester City correspondent and will be following the club from a Manchester base throughout the 2015/16 season. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow him on Twitter @RobPollard_.