Best XI Who Came Through Man City’s Youth Academy System

With the construction of an 80-acre facility in the heart of the ETIHAD campus dedicated to training academy players, Manchester City have placed an emphasis on building for the future as opposed to just the present.

The rewards are being reaped, as the U23s and U18s both won their respective Professional Development Leagues in 2020-21, and the latest player to make the step up to the first team – Cole Palmer – recently put in a stellar display in City’s 4-1 win in the FA Cup over Swindon.

But does he make our team of the best currently-active players who came through the Blues’ academy?

In order to be considered for this team, they have to have played for City’s senior side at least once in a competitive match, meaning that players like Jadon Sancho and Adrien Rabiot cannot feature.

GK: Kasper Schmeichel

It’s easy to forget that Kasper Schmeichel was on City’s books, but the Danish goalkeeper joined their youth team in 2002, the same year his father – Peter – signed for the Blues.

Kasper made seven appearances in the 2007-08 season, keeping a clean sheet in the Manchester derby and saving a Robin van Persie penalty against Arsenal, although when Joe Hart became the club’s first-choice in 2008, Schmeichel requested to leave.

He got his wish the next year when he left for Notts County, and he has since gone on to establish himself as one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League at Leicester, winning the league in 2016 and the FA Cup in 2021, as well as picking up 78 caps for Denmark to-date.

His career and life story have recently been profiled as part of ITV’s Against All Odds series.

RWB: Pablo Maffeo

Pablo Maffeo has been capped by Spain at U16, U17, and U21 level, although he is yet to play for the senior team.

He only ever played three times for City after joining their academy in 2013, with all of those games coming during the 2016-17 season, and he had three loan spells at Girona before leaving permanently for Stuttgart in 2018.

Currently on-loan at Mallorca from Stuttgart, Maffeo was described by Lionel Messi in 2020 as the toughest defender he had ever faced, and you can’t get much higher praise than that.

CB: Eric Garcia

Eric Garcia began his career in Barcelona’s La Masia youth academy, but he switched to Man City in 2017 and played for the club’s U19s in the UEFA Youth League.

His senior debut came in December 2018 against Leicester in the League Cup, and when the Premier League returned after lockdown in June 2020, he was City’s first-choice centre-back alongside Aymeric Laporte.

However, despite Pep Guardiola rating him highly, Garcia rejected a contract extension and moved back to Barcelona on a free last summer.

The 14-capped Spanish international’s return did not start well, as he received two red cards in his first six games for the club, including in a 3-0 humiliation in the Champions League by Benfica, and he has recently been ruled out for a month with a hamstring injury.

CB: Ben Mee

The current captain of Burnley, Ben Mee’s only appearance for Manchester City was in a 2-1 defeat against West Brom in the League Cup in September 2010.

He joined the Clarets permanently in 2012 after half a season on-loan at Turf Moor, where he has become an integral part of a formidable defensive trident alongside centre-back partner James Tarkowski and goalkeeper Nick Pope.

He has made 368 appearances for the club in just over a decade, although his contract with the relegation-threatened side runs out this summer.

CB: Tosin Adarabioyo

Tosin Adarabioyo joined Manchester City’s youth ranks in 2003 at the age of five, and he made his debut in a 5-1 defeat against Chelsea in the FA Cup in 2016, being commended for his display against striker Diego Costa in spite of the scoreline.

However, he would only play seven more times for the club, and after two loan spells at West Brom and Blackburn, he signed for Fulham in 2020.

He has become one of the Cottagers’ first-choice defenders, playing 20 games this season and scoring twice, including in their recent 7-0 trouncing of Reading.

LWB: Angelino

Adventurous and marauding left-back Angelino joined City from Deportivo La Coruna in 2013, although he was loaned out three times – as many games as he played for the club in his first spell there – before a move to PSV five years later.

He really came into his own at the Philips Stadion, making the Eredivisie Team of the Season after making ten assists in 2018-19, and City exercised their buy-back clause that summer.

Once again, he quickly found himself out of favour, but upon joining RB Leipzig in January 2020, the Spaniard has once again shown his class, scoring eight times and making 11 assists in all competitions last season.

CM: Phil Foden

Perhaps the jewel in this team, Phil Foden has become a fan favourite at the ETIHAD with his skill on the ball and ability to glide past players with ease.

Described by Guardiola as the player with the most potential he had ever seen when he broke through to the senior team in 2017, Foden had to bide his time as a rotation option for a while, but after winning the Man of the Match award in the 2019-20 League Cup final, he hasn’t looked back.

He was pivotal in City’s title win and run to the Champions League final last season, netting 16 goals and making ten assists, and he will play an even more crucial role for the club in the years to come.

CM: Cole Palmer

Capable of playing in midfield or up-front, Cole Palmer has scored three goals in 13 games for the senior team so far, including one in the Champions League against Club Brugge and a powerful strike against Swindon last week.

He made headlines in October by playing in two matches within a few hours, coming on as a late substitute in the Blues’ 2-0 win over Burnley before scoring a hat-trick against Leicester U23s for Man City U23s in the Premier League 2 later that day.

Still aged only 19, Palmer will have to bide his time to become a regular in City’s first team, much like Foden did, but it may well be worth the wait.

AM: Brahim Diaz

Like with Jadon Sancho, Man City recognised Brahim Diaz’ talents early on but weren’t able to guarantee him playing minutes on a regular basis.

He made just 15 appearances for the club – with only four of them being starts – before he expressed his desire to leave in search of more first-team action, and he joined Real Madrid in January 2019 for €17 million.

Breaking through at the Bernabeu would prove to be just as tricky, but the diminutive attacking midfielder has been a regular fixture at AC Milan since moving there on-loan in the summer of 2020, even scoring against Liverpool in the Champions League earlier this season.

ST: Lukas Nmecha

Currently contracted to VfL Wolfsburg, Lucas Nmecha spent ten years in City’s academy, scoring prolifically for the reserves before making his senior debut in 2017.

However, he would make just three appearances – all as a substitute – in four years, and after catching the eye on-loan at Anderlecht last season with 21 goals in all competitions, Wolfsburg snapped him up for €8 million.

He has since scored eight goals in 21 games for the Wolves, and he received his first caps for the German national team in November 2021.

ST: Kelechi Iheanacho

Nigerian striker Kelechi Iheanacho has blown hot-and-cold since moving to Leicester in 2017 for £25 million, although he did score 11 goals in his final 12 league games last season.

Iheanacho’s first goal for City came in only his second game for them with a late winner against Crystal Palace in September 2015, just a couple of minutes after coming on as a substitute.

The club had high hopes for him after he averaged a goal every 94 minutes during the 2015-16 campaign, although Gabriel Jesus’ arrival in January 2017 left Iheanacho surplus to requirements, and he joined Leicester that summer.

He also scored the winner for Nigeria in their recent 1-0 win over Egypt at the African Cup of Nations in Cameroon, one of 12 goals he has scored for the Super Eagles.

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