When a transfer window opens, fans anxiously await for the decisions their clubs will make during this exciting period. Transfer rumours fly on social media, as pundits and journalists release exciting details about hot new prospects and where they might land in the coming days or months. Moreover, competitions such as the Euro Cup, Copa América and FIFA World Cup display talented athletes on an international scale, thus serving as a spark in many of their careers.
Whilst the media and fans anxiously await this period full of drama and speculation, the other side of the market is often forgotten.
The transfer market is not all glitter and gold for some stars, as many will fall out of favour with their fans, teammates, managerial staff or club boards. Some will desperately seek other opportunities to revamp their career whilst others seek to fight for their place and prove their doubters wrong.
Regardless of the decisions made, this is a period of risk for many athletes. Such has been the case for some of Manchester City’s players.
For example, the young full backs Pablo Maffeo and Angeliño were regarded as bright talent and players of the future for Manchester City. They spent a good portion of their career on loan in an attempt to impress their Mancunian employers. Despite their impressive performances, they were unable to break into City’s senior team. After numerous years of trying, the Spaniards left City in order to continue their careers.
Similar events occurred with Kelechi Iheanacho and Nolito, who found themselves unable to find regular playing time under Pep Guardiola’s system. Moreover, Enes Ünal and Aaron Mooy never made a senior appearance for the Blues, as they spent their entire City career on loan, away from the Etihad Stadium, before being offloaded elsewhere. According to recent reports, it is possible Oleksandr Zinchenko and Tosin Adarabioyo may also depart from the club.
Perhaps most well-known are the cases of Joe Hart, Eliaquim Mangala, Jason Denayer and Patrick Roberts. What happened to these players?
In the case of Joe Hart, it seems his time with City is over. Having joined the Blues in 2006, the English goalkeeper had a remarkable spell. Following a series of loans, his career at City kicked off in 2010 under former manager Roberto Mancini. His performances in goal were well rewarded, as he and his teammates won the FA Cup in the 2010/11 season, which was the first time the Blues had won silverware since 1976.
What followed next saw a series of remarkable achievements, where the Englishman won the Premier League in the 2011/12 and 2013/14 seasons and the EFL Cup in the 2013/14 and 2015/16 seasons. Although his club career continued to soar, he suddenly began to dip in form, and this became very apparent whilst on his international duty. The surprising loss to Iceland at the 2016 Euro Cup foreshadowed what was to come.
Following the announcement of Pep Guardiola as the new City manager, Joe Hart found himself as an outcast. The former number one was replaced by Claudio Bravo. Desperate to save his career, he was sent on loan to Torino in an attempt to reclaim his place at City. Yet the loan backfired as the Englishman’s performances were disappointing. Torino president Urbano Cairo stated the goalkeeper’s performance had declined as the season progressed.
Matters soon became worse. With a place at the FIFA World Cup at stake, and with the acquisition of Ederson from Benfica, Hart then signed a season-long loan with West Ham United. Yet once again the goalkeeper underperformed, and what was originally meant to help the Englishman regain his place as a starting goalkeeper turned into a situation where he sat the bench. Finally, the dreaded day came: on 16 May, Hart lost his place in the English squad for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Now, on the final year of his contract with City, Hart will be reunited with his employers during the early stages of the preseason. During this period, he will have an important decision to make: remain with the club for the final year of his contract or look for a permanent move to another club with a substantial pay cut.
Eliaquim Mangala has also had a series of misfortunes in recent years. Having impressed during his time at Porto, former manager Manuel Pellegrini acquired the center back for what was then the most expensive transfer for a defender in British transfer history. He was unable to replicate his form with the Mancunian club, however, and was later sent on loan to Valencia.
Following an uninspiring season in Spain, the defender tried to regain his place under Guardiola, yet to no avail. The Frenchman was then sent on loan to Everton, which was quickly derailed after he suffered a knee injury. Further scans showed the injury was serious, and his season ended prematurely.
Perhaps most ironically, however, was that City won the EFL Cup and English Premier League, and since Mangala played a part in obtaining both trophies, he was awarded two winner’s medals. Now, as the Frenchman continues to recover from his injury, City are looking for a suitable buyer to offload the defender.
The final recent example is that of Jason Denayer and Patrick Roberts, two players who have been with City for several years, yet neither has been able to break into the senior squad.
Denayer, who played a portion of his youth career at City, seemed as if he would be the successor to fellow countryman Vincent Kompany. Fate, however, had other plans. The young Belgian first joined Celtic on loan during the 2014/15 season, where he formed a solid partnership with Virgil van Dijk. The young defender learned a lot from his Dutch teammate, and following Celtic’s dominant performance in the Scottish Premiership, it seemed as if he would break into City’s senior team.
Unfortunately, the Belgian was deemed unready, and what followed was a series of loans to Galatasaray (on two occasions) and a lackluster spell at Sunderland, who were relegated at the end of the 2016/17 season. Displeased with his inability to break into City’s senior squad, Denayer is considering other options, including the possibility to remain with Galatasaray.
Similarly, Patrick Roberts was viewed as an exciting new prospect when the former Fulham man joined Manchester City in 2015. Yet, like Denayer, he has spent his entire City career on loan, where he has played with Celtic. The young Englishman has impressed whilst in Scotland, but this has not been enough to earn him a place in Guardiola’s team. Moreover, as City’s options in midfield continue to grow, Roberts may also seek employment at another club.
Overall, these examples indicate that football is a cruel sport, as sometimes the most promising and hard-working talent are not rewarded. Like anything in life, nothing is deserved. People must earn their place.
But sometimes the hard work and investment is not enough. If these examples have indicated anything, it is that many young players at Manchester City, and in the English Premier League in general, have a difficult time breaking into their respective senior teams. Whilst clubs continue to spend millions on acquiring new talent, their former prospects are often cast aside.
These are the forgotten men.