Introducing Manchester City's Next Generation of Academy Stars
It's Inside Manchester City Week at Bleacher Report, and day two brings a focus on City's next generation.
One of the more tired criticisms of Manchester City since the takeover by Abu Dhabi United Group in 2008 has been the club's inability to produce young players capable of first-team action. Heavy investment in the senior squad has, understandably, made it far more difficult for City's young players to make the grade, and the club have had to be patient.
This season, though, the club are opening their new Etihad Campus, an 80-acre, £200-million development adjacent to the Etihad Stadium that is set to be the envy of world football. It will home to the first team, with world-class training and medical facilities and a hotel the players will use before home matches. It will also be the new home of the club's youth and women's sides.
It is hoped this new facility will see City produce their own talent in the not-too-distant future, but even now, as the club begin their move to the new facility, they have a batch of impressive youngsters from whom much is expected.
Patrick Vieira, the club's Elite Development Squad manager, has been cultivating an impressive side, and Manuel Pellegrini is likely to have an eye on one or two young players who could take their place in the first-team squad on a regular basis.
Here are some of the best.
Jose Angel Pozo
NAME: Jose Angel Pozo
Jose Angel Pozo is very highly regarded by staff at City. He has already earned himself a City first-team appearance in his fledgling career, having played in the League Cup match with Sheffield Wednesday earlier this season. He scored a goal and looked composed after coming on with 30 minutes left. Pozo will be desperate to make at least one more appearance before the season is over.
He was signed from Real Madrid in 2012 for £2.4 million and was described by former City recruitment chief Mike Rigg in an interview with Goal as "a wonderful talent." He is seen by many as the most likely to make the breakthrough from the EDS side into Pellegrini's first team on a regular basis in the near future.
Pozo was nominated for the Academy Player of the Year award in his first full season at the club and has shown enough technical quality in his time at City to be considered a player capable of big things.
NAME: Angus Gunn
Son of former Norwich City goalkeeper Bryan, Angus Gunn looks set to make his own name in the game after some impressive performances for City's EDS.
He’s been a key part of the side that has qualified for the UEFA Youth League knock-out stages with two group games to spare, and his reflexes have caught the eye of everybody who has seen him.
He's just 18, yet his huge stature and maturity have impressed everyone who has seen him play since he moved to the club from Norwich. City had to pay the Canaries £250,000 to secure his signature, but he's expected to pay that back (and more) in the future.
He's represented England at the under-16 and under-17 levels, and his development, so far, has been seen as ahead of schedule.
Jose Angel Tasende
NAME: Jose Angel Tasende
Arguably the most promising of any EDS player on City's books is Jose Angel Tasende, better known as "Angelino," a Spanish left-back who continues to garner attention with his exciting displays.
His career trajectory can be summed up by the fact that he made his Spanish under-21 debut before his 17th birthday and was part of City's under-18 side before signing as a scholar.
He has bags of pace, loves to get forward and can cross the ball superbly. He was a regular in Vieira's EDS team last season and this one, with seemingly no challenge too big for him.
The club are optimistic that Angelino has a bright future.
NAME: Denzeil Boadu
The way Denzeil Boadu has performed since signing for City as a first-year scholar after switching from Arsenal has been impressive.
He is fast, has a wonderful ability to run with the ball and is capable of playing the killer pass.
Last year, he travelled to Norway to play for England under-17s and scored four goals in four games, including a hat-trick in the final match.
Glad to have scored my 1st, 2nd, 3rd & 4th goal for England as well as my 1st hat-trick today vs Norway. Target was 4 in 4, target hit.— Denzeil Boadu (@denzeilboadu) August 10, 2013
And in a recent match for City's under-18s, he scored another superb hat-trick, despite only just returning from injury.
It seems he has huge potential, even if he is younger and more inexperienced than some featured on this list.
NAME: Marcos Lopes
POSITION: Attacking midfielder
Marcos Lopes, currently on loan at Lille, is a technically gifted player who, like Pozo, has first-team experience at City. He has played five times in cup competitions in recent seasons. His display in the first half at Upton Park last season clearly demonstrated his quality, with an assist that showed vision and skill.
The director of Lille's youth academy, Jean-Michel Vandamme, recently suggested via Get French Football News that Lopes has the ability to be a No. 10, not just a wide player, saying:
Eden Hazard is a solo player, Ron conducts the play. He forces others to play better, because he provides them with his services. Hazard is an attacker who can turn into number ten. Lopes is a number ten that can turn into an attacker. Ron Lopes is much more involved in the transition phases of play and he instinctively returns to defend.
At just 18, Lopes has plenty of time to develop. With his loan spell at Lille proving successful, he will have one eye on returning to City and forcing his way into the first-team squad.
NAME: Karim Rekik
It seems almost certain that Karim Rekik, who is currently on loan at PSV Eindhoven for the second consecutive season, will play some role in the City squad. They have been two fruitful loan periods, with Rekik having gained experience playing at both left-back and centre-back in the Dutch Eredivisie.
He made one Premier League appearance for City against Reading in 2012. He also enjoyed loan spells at both Portsmouth and Blackburn before his two-season stint at PSV began. He's been a regular in Holland and has developed his game both physically and technically.
With City struggling at left-back, Rekik's chances of impacting the first team are surely increased.
NAME: Bersant Celina
City beat a host of other top clubs to secure youngster Bersant Celina when he signed a two-year scholarship in July of 2013.
Celina has already played for Norway at the under-17 level and has impressed with his goalscoring at City. He was even called up by Kosovo, his country of birth before moving to Oslo as a two-year-old, last year—a remarkable achievement for one so young.
NAME: Brandon Barker
Already called up to the England under-18 and under-19 squads, Brandon Barker is making a real name for himself at City. The 18-year-old winger, who has bags of pace and talent, recently scored two in the EDS' 4-2 win over CSKA Moscow in the UEFA Youth Champions League. He is considered a bright talent.
He won the Academy Players' Player of the Year in 2013/14 and has continued to make great strides this season under the guidance of Vieira.