On 9 July, Manchester City began their preseason training at the City Football Academy. Whilst most of the senior team is still on holiday or competing at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, notable members present were Aymeric Laporte, Phil Foden, Oleksandr Zinchenko, Brahim Diaz and Jason Denayer. For the senior women’s team, Manchester welcomed new recruits Lauren Hemp, Caroline Weir and Gemma Bonner.
Managers Pep Guardiola and Nick Cushing trained with their teams on a sunny day in Manchester. The two senior teams practiced together, in what was deemed a successful training on the first day of preseason, and both sides will be eager to continue their success into the 2018/19 season.
But as the preseason begins, the media has recently reported that the Blues may face yet another exodus of youthful talent in the coming weeks.
The most notable omission was that of Patrick Roberts, who has been rumored to be leaving City for several seasons. The winger spent most of his time on loan at Celtic, where he became a fan favorite. Whilst it was rumoured the young Englishman would join the Celts in a permanent deal, it appears he will now be sold to Leicester City as part of a deal for Riyad Mahrez. Therefore, it seems he will never break into City’s senior team.
Denayer has also been linked with a departure for several seasons, as he too has been unable to secure a spot with the senior squad. Deemed a potential replacement for fellow countryman Vincent Kompany, the young centre back spent his entire City career on loan, having played at Celtic, Sunderland and Galatasaray (on two occasions). Following the conclusion of his second loan spell in Istanbul, the Turkish club expressed that they would like to sign Denayer on a permanent deal.
Whilst it has long been reported Roberts and Denayer would potentially leave Manchester, the most recent reports claim Angus Gunn and Zinchenko may also depart from the Mancunian club.
Having impressed whilst on loan at Norwich City last season, it was believed Gunn may challenge for a place in the senior squad. It seems, however, that an opportunity to see first team action will not materialise. On 10 July, Manchester City announced the Englishman departed for Southampton on a permanent deal.
The biggest surprise, however, is the potential departure of Zinchenko. The Ukrainian midfielder was purchased from Russian club Ufa in July 2016 for £1.7 million. Having spent his first season on an unsuccessful loan at PSV Eindhoven, the versatile midfielder redeemed his City career, where he became a makeshift left back in place of the injured Benjamin Mendy. Guardiola praised his work ethic, and it seemed the Ukrainian was here to stay.
But with Mendy returning from injury, and a fully-fit Fabian Delph as the preferred backup to the Frenchman, Zinchenko’s place seems uncertain. Wolverhampton Wanderers are rumoured to have submitted a £16 million bid for the Ukrainian, whilst Newcastle United have also expressed interest. Knowing that he has fallen down the chain in City’s senior team, the young EFL and English Premier League winner must now make a difficult decision: fight for his place in a competitive City side or try his luck elsewhere.
City have often been criticized for overspending on new players rather than helping their academy players break into the senior squad. Unfortunately, if these reports are true, it seems this trend of young and aspiring talent departing from the Etihad will continue. These are just the most recent names who may be joining former teammates Pablo Maffeo and Angeliño on their way out of Manchester.
Therefore, aside from Foden and Diaz, should the aforementioned players leave, can anyone from City’s youth break the curse and secure a pace in the senior team? Only time will tell.