Most of the professional footballers wouldn’t miss the opportunity to learn under Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola. For a youngster, it is no doubt a golden opportunity.
Pep’s biggest mark in football, other than trophies, is certainly sparking the rise of Lionel Messi. A quick look at the stats tells the story: Messi was a far better player under Guardiola than he was under previous manager, Frank Rijkaard.
In his last season under the Dutch coach, Messi scored 16 goals in 40 appearances, having netted 17 from 36 in the previous campaign. Since then, however, the Argentine has more than doubled those tallies, bagging 38, 47 and 53 strikes in the three seasons under Guardiola. And since then, there’s been no looking back for him.
At Manchester City, players like Fabian Delph and Kyle Walker have shown significant improvements, with Raheem Sterling also regaining his lost confidence. Let us have a look at the players who have risen to the top of the City Football Academy (CFA).
3. Tom Dele-Bashiru
A powerhouse of a midfielder, Tom is capable of driving the team forward from midfield due to his direct style of play. Similar to the other U16s who moved up to the U18s last summer, Dele-Bashiru made a real impression during his first season in the U18 Premier League, scoring six times in 15 games.
Tom has been regarded as the next Yaya Toure of Manchester City. As he dominates the central midfield, he is not a player who hides from his defensive duties and has the ability to stay on his feet as he dribbles past his opponents.
Pace may not be the strongest of points in this youngster, and Dele-Bashiru needs to work on his finishing as he hopes to get into the Manchester City first team in the coming months.
2. Brahim Diaz
Brahim is a Spanish attacking midfielder who started his career at Malaga, moving to Manchester City in 2015 as a 16-year-old. Brahim Diaz has progressed rapidly through the ranks at the City Football Academy.
With an extensive bag of tricks in his locker, the fleet-footed playmaker enjoyed a fruitful time in the Academy, before making his first team debut and signing his maiden professional contract last season.
On 27 July 2017, Diaz made a substitute appearance against Real Madrid in an International Champions Cup pre-season friendly and surprised everyone with a mesmerizing finish, scoring the last goal in a 4–1 win for City.
With magnificent dribbling skills, Brahim also boasts incredible ball control and on-point finishing. Diaz came off the bench in the 2-1 defeat against Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League, showing some brilliant dribbling skills despite the scarce amount of game time. He is indeed a great future prospect, and learning under Pep Guardiola will nothing but help him shine in the star-studded Manchester City squad.
1. Phil Foden
Foden is one of those young central midfielders who are a delight to watch for the eyes. He is an England youth international, who in May 2017, scored in the final of the UEFA European Under-17 Championship as England U17’s suffered a penalty at the hands of Spain.
In October 2017, Foden gained widespread press attention after scoring twice in the final of the 2017 U17 FIFA world cup, also against Spain, as England won the competition and Foden was named as the best player of the tournament.
Born on 28th May 2000, Foden became the youngest player ever to start for a side in the UEFA Champions League against Shakhtar Donetsk. Impressive in Manchester City’s preseason, he has failed to get any playing time in the Premier League.
Phil has been a City fan since his childhood and playing for the first team with the likes of Sergio Aguero, David Silva, and Kevin de Bruyne is a big step forward for him. He is certainly destined to see a decent amount of the first team playing time, for a player his age.
Guardiola said on Foden: “It’s dangerous to say good things about young players because they are still young, and they have to grow and they have to learn many, many things … But we have a lot of confidence to help him, because we believe he is a guy who has potential, even if he’s not strong, he’s not tall … I think he has absolutely good potential to be helped, and that is what we do.”
City’s Abu Dhabi based owners have invested heavily in the CFA, which spreads over 80-acres and supports the participation of over 400 youths at a time.
They certainly have many exciting prospects emerging in their ranks, but City need to make sure that they don’t let go of the important players. They have already let go of highly rated youngsters like Kelechi Iheanacho, Jose Angel Pozo, Enes Unal and Jordan Sancho, with Patrick Roberts’ future also in doubt.
Manchester City fans should be, without a doubt, excited to see the academy players enter the first team in the coming seasons.