Why Jason Denayer Faces Vital Season at Manchester City

Rob Pollard@@RobPollard_Featured ColumnistJune 8, 2015

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - MAY 24: Jason Denayer in action for Celtic  at the Scottish Premiership Match between Celtic and Inverness Caley Thistle at Celtic Park on May 24, 2015 in Glasgow, Scotland.  (Photo by Jeff Holmes/Getty Images)
Jeff Holmes/Getty Images

After a successful loan spell at Celtic, Jason Denayer returns to Manchester City at an important crossroads in his Blues career.

The 19-year-old excelled at Celtic Park and was a key element of their double-winning team, playing 44 times and scoring six goals for the Hoops. He made his full debut for Belgium on Sunday, playing 85 minutes of their 4-3 win over France, and he impressed with his maturity and composure.

Special shoutout to one of our great talents @Jasondenayer . Great performance. Keep focused, keep working hard. #MCFC #Belgium

— Vincent Kompany (@VincentKompany) June 7, 2015

Denayer is given a standing ovation from the traveling Belgium support as he is subbed off. Quality performance! pic.twitter.com/Nd4pKkCwFw

— City Watch (@City_Watch) June 7, 2015

He has a real chance to establish himself as a City player next season. With Dedryck Boyata now having left the club, Denayer will be expected to fight for a place in the first-team squad by virtue of his “club-trained” status.

UEFA rules state that at least one “club-trained” player must be named in each matchday squad. Denayer, Karim Rekik and Marcos Lopes will all be in contention to fulfil the spot next season.

And with Frank Lampard, James Milner and Boyata all leaving City this summer, there’s currently a need for home-grown players in the squad. The club are likely to look at top English talent during the transfer window, with Raheem Sterling likely to be at the top of the club’s wish list, but given the premium placed on signing established British stars, the necessity for club's to produce their own talents has increased.

HYDE, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 23: Jason Denayer of Manchester City U21 in action with Adam Morgan of Liverpool U21 during the Barclays U21s Premier League match between Manchester City U21 and Liverpool U21 at Ewen Fields on September 23, 2013 in Hyde, Englan
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
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City have invested heavily in youth development, with their ambition to have "four to six" homegrown players in their squad, as outlined by Brian Marwood, City’s academy director, in an interview with Henry Winter of the Telegraph in December, ambitious but achievable.

The City Football Academy (CFA), a £150 million facility that is remarkable in both the ingenuity of its design and the scale of its ambition, opened in December. It houses 16.5 football pitches, classrooms for young players to learn, a first-team hotel, world-class medical facilities and a 7,000-seater academy stadium.

There could not be a clearer statement of intent. City have placed youth development at the forefront of their thinking, and with a talented batch of youngsters already in their midst, the integration of home-grown players may come sooner than some expected.

With Vincent Kompany's downturn in form and Eliaquim Mangala still settling in after his move from Porto last summer, it’s possible Denayer could force his way into the first-team reckoning rather than simply make up the numbers and provide a “club-trained” option in the way Boyata did.

Denayer appears to be equipped with everything he needs to impact the top level. His national-team manager, Marc Wilmots, recently said Denayer reminds him of Eden Hazard in terms of his ability to remain calm and his confidence. His maturity is perhaps the most striking of his attributes.

Marc Wilmots: "Jason (Denayer) is like Eden Hazard. Always calm. I’ve never seen him nervous; he has a lot of confidence..."

— City Watch (@City_Watch) June 7, 2015

Although the standard in the Scottish Premiership is questionable, there’s huge pressure to play well at Celtic, and his involvement in winning two pieces of silverware will have provided him with excellent preparation for life at a club with the ambition City have. It was a loan deal that proved beneficial for all involved.

Using the experience he gained in the Scottish Premiership, Champions League and Europa League will be vital. City currently face difficulties at centre-back. There's a lack of depth at present, and an opportunity for the right person beckons. Denayer certainly looks to have the ability needed to force his way in, and next season could be a huge test of his credentials.

Rob Pollard is Bleacher Report's lead Manchester City correspondent and follows the club from a Manchester base. All quotes are obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow him on Twitter: @RobPollard.