Football Features

Players you (probably) forgot played for Manchester City

By Squawka News

Published: 17:12, 20 December 2023

Sheikh Mansour has been trying to build a football empire in east Manchester since before the prospect of bringing Pep Guardiola to Manchester City became a reality.

The Etihad Stadium has become surrounded by the Etihad Campus, a £200m development created to ready the club to become the next big powerhouse of the English and European game, bringing in talent to refine and turn into the Premier League champions of the future.

However, not every prospect to step through the doors of the academy has stayed around long enough to become a component for success required to realise the potential of the City project. Below are 20 players to depart the Etihad before they could be a key part of the first team as expected.

1. Daniel Sturridge

  • Senior games for Manchester City: 32 (six goals)
  • Career path post-City: Chelsea, Bolton (loan), Liverpool, West Brom (loan), Trabzonspor, Perth Glory
  • Trophies since leaving City: Premier League (Chelsea), FA Cup (twice, Chelsea), Champions League (Chelsea, Champions League (Liverpool)

A Premier League title winner in his first season at Chelsea under Carlo Ancelotti, Sturridge enjoyed his best season at Stamford Bridge in 2011/12 as he made 43 appearances in all competitions, scoring 13 goals as the Blues won the FA Cup and the Champions League following a five-month spell on loan with Bolton Wanders between January and May 2012.

He joined Liverpool in January 2013 and helped fire the Reds to an unexpected second-place finish in 2014 alongside Luis Suarez, and after struggling to retain his fitness record and a lack of compatibility with Jurgen Klopp’s system, completed a loan move to West Brom in January of 2018. He spent some time in Turkey with Trabzonspor but left after receiving a betting-related ban. He’s since popped up at A-League Men side Perth Glory, leaving in the summer of 2022.

2. Kasper Schmeichel

  • Senior games for Manchester City: 10
  • Career path post-City: Notts County, Leeds United, Leicester City, Nice
  • Trophies since leaving City: League Two (Notts County), Championship (Leicester), Premier League (Leicester), FA Cup (Leicester)

Following a span of five loan moves away to Darlington, Bury, Falkirk, Cardiff City and Coventry City, Schmeichel left the Etihad on a permanent basis to join Notts County in 2009, working his way up the Football League pyramid via promotion and then Leeds United before joining Leicester City in 2011, with whom he would win the Premier League in 2016 and FA Cup in 2021. Kasper Schmeichel finally called time on his Leicester career in 2022 after 11 years, joining French club Nice.

He was also a hero for Denmark in their 2018 World Cup and Euro 2020 campaign.

3. Adam Clayton

  • Senior games for Manchester City: None
  • Career path post-City: Leeds United, Peterborough United (loan), Milton Keynes Dons (loan), Huddersfield Town, Middlesbrough, Birmingham City, Doncaster Rovers, Bradford City, Rochdale
  • Trophies since leaving City: None

Now a part of Rochdale’s midfield, the Englishman was well-known for his eye-catching facial hair during his days playing for Huddersfield in the Championship, with the former City academy graduate often dying his beard for charity.

4. Denis Suarez

  • Senior games for Manchester City: 2
  • Career path post-City: Barcelona B, Sevilla (loan), Villarreal, Barcelona, Arsenal (loan), Celta Vigo, Espanyol (loan), Villarreal
  • Trophies since leaving City: Europa League (Sevilla), Spanish Super Cup (Barcelona), Copa Del Rey (twice, Barcelona), La Liga (Barcelona)

Signed from Celta Vigo in 2011, the Spaniard spent two years at City before returning to Spain to join Barcelona’s B-team set-up, who then sent the midfielder out on loan with Sevilla for the 2014/15 season.

Despite helping his temporary paymasters to win the Europa League, his parent club sold him to Villarreal in 2015 but wisely inserted a buy-back clause into the deal.

Only a year later they came back for Suarez, who was regarded in some quarters as the future of Barcelona’s midfield. He is one of the players on this list who would have been ideal for the Pep Guardiola era at the Etihad. Suarez returned to the Premier League by signing for Arsenal on a loan until the end of the 2018/19 season, but the Gunners didn’t execute their option to sign him permanently with Suarez subsequently re-joining boyhood club Celta from where he joined Espanyol on loan. He’s returned to Villarreal on a permanent basis.

5. Adrien Rabiot

  • Senior games for Manchester City: None
  • Career path post-City: Paris Saint-Germain, Toulouse (loan), Juventus
  • Trophies since leaving City: Ligue 1 (5x, Paris Saint-Germain), Coupe de France (4x, Paris Saint-Germain), Coupe de la Ligue (5x Paris Saint-Germain), French Super Cup (3x, Paris Saint-Germain), Serie A (Juventus), Coppa Italia (Juventus), Supercoppa Italia (Juventus)

The Frenchman was only at City’s academy for a short spell in 2008 before returning to France and eventually joining the youth ranks at PSG, from where he relocated to Juventus in 2019. Although Rabiot largely failed to acclimatise to Sarriball, he found a space in the team under Andrea Pirlo.

Although his association with Guardiola’s club may have been all too brief, he is another footballer who would have fit the right profile of a player ready to perform for the Catalan.

6. Harry Bunn

  • Senior games for Manchester City: None
  • Career path post-City: Huddersfield Town, Bury, Southend United (loan), Kilmarnock, York City, Scunthorpe United, Buxton
  • Trophies since leaving City: None

The scorer of Huddersfield’s consolation goal in the replay of their FA Cup fifth-round tie with City in 2017, Bunn was a former academy graduate who had joined the club at the age of nine only to leave to sign up for the Terriers on a permanent basis in 2013 in the Championship.

Due to the progress made by his manager David Wagner in driving the club up the table, he may have hoped to find himself up against his former team on a more regular basis, playing in the Premier League, in the seasons to come.

But Bunn joined Bury in the summer of 2017 and was relegated to League Two after a horrendous campaign. He then joined Southend United on loan until the end of the 2018/19 season before signing for Kilmarnock. Bunn is now playing for National League side Buxton.

7. Rony Lopes

  • Senior games for Manchester City: 5 (one goal)
  • Career path post-City: Monaco, Lille (loan), Sevilla, Nice (loan), Olympiacos (loan), Troyes (loan), Braga
  • Trophies since leaving City: None

A member of the Portuguese Under-19 side that came second in his age group’s equivalent of the European Championship in 2014, Lopes left City as a highly-rated winger the same summer to join Monaco, only to find himself loaned out to Lille for the next two seasons.

He had originally played for the club on a temporary basis while still a City player, with his first successful season with the Ligue 1 side catching the eye of Monaco who later moved to sign him up in 2017. But injury problems kept him out for most of Monaco’s poor 2018/19 campaign. He’s since joined Braga from Sevilla where during his period there he’d be loaned out to Nice, Olympiacos and Troyes.

8. John Guidetti

  • Senior games for Manchester City: 1
  • Career path post-City: Celta Vigo, Alavés, Hannover 96 (loan), AIK
  • Trophies since leaving City: None

Signed during Sven-Goran Eriksson’s reign as City manager after the Swedish tactician was tipped off about an exciting young striker back in his homeland that he didn’t want to miss out on, Guidetti left the Etihad in 2015 after completing a series of loan moves including a successful spell with Feyenoord, with whom he scored 20 goals in 23 league games.

He was a key fixture in the front three of La Liga giant-killing specialists Celta Vigo, though was loaned to Alavés before making the move permanent in 2018/19. Guidetti spent the second half of 2019/20 on loan at 2. Bundesliga outfit Hannover 96 but returned to Alaves, making just 10 appearances. After 74 appearances in total for Alaves, Guidetti has returned to his native Sweden, joining AIK midway through their season.

9. Jose Angel Pozo

  • Senior games for Manchester City: 5 (two goals)
  • Career path post-City: Almeria, Rayo Vallecano, Al Ahli SC (loan)
  • Trophies since leaving City: None

Rather fancifully dubbed as a talent who possessed the potential to be worthy of comparison with some of the leading players in the Barcelona front line, Pozo left City in 2015 for the Spanish second division after initially making headway under Manuel Pellegrini.

10. Martin Samuelsen

  • Senior games for Manchester City: None
  • Career path post-City: West Ham, Peterborough United (loan), Blackburn Rovers (loan), Peterborough United (loan), Burton Albion (loan), VVV-Venlo (loan), FK Haugesund, Hull City, Aalborg (loan), FK Haugesund
  • Trophies since leaving City: None

The Norwegian playmaker spent three years in the Manchester City academy before moving to West Ham, with whom he made his professional debut in 2015 in the Europa League against Birkirkara.

He has subsequently been sent out on loan for two spells with Peterborough, with a half-season with Blackburn sandwiched between his temporary moves to Cambridgeshire, before spending 2017/18 with Bury. Then, in the summer of 2018, he moved abroad for a season-long loan at Dutch side VVV-Venlo.

After returning, he would be loaned out to Norwegian side Haugesund before joining Hull City permanently in January 2020, with fans hopeful he can replicate the performances of Jarrod Bowen. That didn’t happen, unfortunately, and he latter joined Danish Superliga outfit AaB on loan before relocating to FK Haugesund of Norway.

11. Loris Karius

  • Senior games for Manchester City: None
  • Career path post-City: Mainz, Liverpool, Besiktas (loan), Union Berlin (loan), Newcastle United
  • Trophies since leaving City: None

The goalkeeper played for the U18 and the U21 Manchester City teams after scouts watched him play in the young German team that faced Macedonia, completing his signing in July 2009. He failed to make a senior appearance during his time in Manchester and has since followed fellow German and ex-Mainz player Jurgen Klopp to Liverpool.

Karius had an initially tough time between the sticks at Anfield, with the Reds boss continuing to be up in arms about deciding between the German and Simon Mignolet for the No. 1 role. He had seemed to have silenced his critics before two mistakes in the 2018 Champions League final forced Klopp to spend £65m on Alisson Becker.

The much-maligned ‘keeper was sent out on loan to Besiktas in Turkey on a two-year loan deal but terminated his contract following a pay dispute. He returned to Germany for 2020/21, on loan at Union Berlin but played just five times. Karius left Liverpool for Newcastle United this past summer.

12. Ben Mee

  • Senior games for Manchester City: 1
  • Career path post-City: Burnley, Brentford
  • Trophies since leaving City: None

Mee, who grew up in Salford, first rose up as the captain of the City Academy squad that won the 2008 FA Youth Cup, which prompted him to sign a two-year contract at the club until 2011. He was then invited to tour the United States with City’s senior team in the summer of 2010 under Roberto Mancini, who stated that he wanted to spend more time improving the youth level and giving them more senior opportunities.

He featured in two preseason games and made his first senior squad appearance in the FA Cup loss to West Bromwich Albion in September 2010. But after finding first-team opportunities limited, he moved to Leicester City on loan for a season before making the permanent switch to Burnley, where he remained until their relegation in 2022. Mee remains in the Premier League, now at Brentford.

13. Kieran Trippier

  • Senior games for Manchester City: None
  • Career path post-City: Barnsley (loan), Burnley, Tottenham Hotspur, Atletico Madrid, Newcastle United
  • Trophies since leaving City: La Liga (Atletico Madrid)

Born in Bury, Kieran Trippier joined Man City at the age of nine in 1999. After signing his first professional contract with the club in 2007, he went on to lift the FA Youth Cup the same season but would only manage a friendly appearance against Barcelona with the first team.

A two-season loan with Barnsley led to interest from Burnley. Building a reputation as one of the best crossers in the Championship, Trippier only played one season in the Premier League with the Clarets before Spurs snapped him up as an understudy to Kyle Walker in 2015.

Trippier soon established himself as the north London club’s first-choice right-back (owing in part to Walker’s £45m switch to City) and turned heads during England’s run to the World Cup semi-final after creating more chances than any other player at the tournament.

However, the 2018/19 campaign would be his last as a Spurs player with that season’s Champions League final against Liverpool being Trippier’s final game. The full-back would move to Spain and link up with Diego Simeone at Atletico Madrid where he revived his career after a mini-slump and won his first title, being key to their La Liga triumph. He’s since relocated to Newcastle United subsequently becoming the Magpies’ first major acquisition since their Saudi takeover.

14. Jadon Sancho

  • Senior games for Manchester City: None
  • Career path post-City: Borussia Dortmund, Manchester United
  • Trophies since leaving City: 2019 German Supercup (Dortmund), DFB-Pokal (Dortmund), EFL Cup (Man Utd)

Sancho has been capped for England at numerous youth levels and was part of the squad that won the U17 World Cup in the summer of 2017. The forward impressed in Manchester City’s academy and was one of the few players who were fast-tracked to the senior set-up in May 2017.

After being omitted from City’s preseason squad after a dispute over a new contract, Sancho then sought a move elsewhere – and since moved to Borussia Dortmund, taking up the number seven shirt that was vacated by Ousmane Dembele, who left for Barcelona.

Sancho became the first Englishman to play for Dortmund, the youngest Englishman to score in the Bundesliga after netting in a 4-0 win over Bayer Leverkusen. He started the 2018/19 season brilliantly, resulting in a new four-year contract, and that scintillating form has continued into the forthcoming campaigns, but last summer the England international returned to England by signing for City’s neighbours Man Utd. We are starting to see him light up the Premier League after a slow first season at Old Trafford.

15. Brahim Diaz

  • Senior games for Manchester City: 15
  • Career path post-City: Real Madrid, AC Milan (loan)
  • Trophies since leaving City: Spanish Super Cup (Real Madrid), La Liga (Real Madrid), Serie A (AC Milan)

The latest man to decide that his career was no longer situated at the Etihad Stadium, Diaz signed with La Liga and European giants Real Madrid for £15.5 million last year.

The 21-year-old’s contract was due to expire at the end of the 2018/19 season and City have clearly decided to cash in on the talented Spaniard while they still can, with Madrid offering a good amount of money for a player who has only appeared few times for the Citizens.

The midfielder has featured 21 times for Real Madrid since joining, albeit with late cameos, but he will have to wait for any more appearances for the time being, now currently on loan at AC Milan. It’s been a pretty decent loan for Diaz though, as he scooped up the Serie A title in 2021/22 in his first season.

Diaz previously scored twice for City in the League Cup but that was about it for the youngster, who left the club with the majority of his career still ahead of him.

16. Pablo Mari

  • Senior games for Manchester City: None
  • Career path post-City: Flamengo, Arsenal, Udinese (loan), Monza (loan)
  • Trophies since leaving City: Campeonato Brasileiro Série A (Flamengo), Copa Libertadores (Flamengo), FA Cup (Arsenal)

Mari joined City from Gimnàstic in August 2016 but the Spaniard’s chances of forcing his way into their star-studded first team were slim to none.

Instead, the Almussafes-born centre-back would play for no fewer than three clubs on loan, including Girona and NAC Breda (both having close ties with City) before joining Brazilian giants Flamengo.

He’d lift South America’s most prestigious club trophy, the Copa Libertadores, before returning to England in January 2020 on loan with Arsenal, a move he later made permanent. However, after a loan at Udinese, Mari’s Arsenal future became uncertain. He’s now enjoying a temporary stay at Monza.

17. Wayne Hennessey

  • Senior games for Manchester City: None
  • Career path post-City: Wolves, Bristol City (loan), Stockport (loan), Yeovil (loan), Crystal Palace, Burnley, Nottingham Forest
  • Trophies since leaving City: Football League Championship (Wolves)

Hennessey began his career as a trainee for Man City but was released in 2003 and immediately joined the youth academy at Wolves, where he made solid progress and became the club’s first-choice ‘keeper at just 20 in 2007.

The towering Welshman helped guide the club to promotion in 2009, but after a string of errors in the top-flight Mick McCarthy drafted in the experienced Marcus Hahnemann to steady the ship and it was only until the 2011/12 season that he would rediscover a consistent starting berth at the Molineux.

Hennessey left for Crystal Palace in 2013, but once again found his place on the fringes, and after a spell at Burnley he’s now with Nottingham Forest.

18. Jason Denayer

  • Senior games for Manchester City: None
  • Career path post-City: Lyon, Shabab Al Ahli, Al Fateh
  • Trophies since leaving City: None

Having impressed at youth level in Belgium, Denayer joined Man City in 2013 but like so many talents both before and after him, the centre-back was unable to make his way into the first team, spending time out on loan at Celtic, Galatasaray and Sunderland.

Since leaving for Lyon in 2018, however, Denayer has made over 90 first-team appearances for the French club (as well as pushing his senior international caps to a total of 20) and beat his former club in the 2019/20 Champions League quarter-finals. Denayer left Lyon in the summer and has since joined Al Fateh from Shabab Al Ahli in Saudi Arabia.

19. Geronimo Rulli

  • Senior games for Manchester City: None
  • Career path post-City: Real Sociedad, Montpellier (loan), Villarreal, Ajax
  • Trophies since leaving City: Europa League (Villarreal)

Goalkeeper Geronimo Rulli signed for Manchester City from Deportivo Maldonado in the 2016/17 season but was loan out to Real Sociedad almost immediately, where he had spent the previous two campaigns. That move was made permanent in 2018, meaning Rulli left Man City without ever really gracing their training ground.

After three permanent years with Sociedad, including one spent on loan at Montpellier, Rulli joined Villarreal last summer and was their cup goalkeeper for 2020/21. He played 13 of their 15 Europa League matches including the final, in which he would score the winning penalty to secure Villarreal their first major honour.

20. Jeremie Frimpong

  • Senior games for Manchester City: None
  • Career path post-City: Celtic, Bayer Leverkusen
  • Trophies since leaving City: Scottish Premiership, Scottish League Cup, Scottish Cup (All Celtic)

After working his way up through the academy where he featured at U18, U19 and U21 level, electric full-back Jeremie Frimpong never featured for the Manchester City first team, eventually leaving for Celtic in September 2019. Quickly becoming a fan favourite, the Dutchman won the treble in his first season in Scotland, also being named the club’s Young Player of the Season.

Another impressive season for Celtic followed before he made the move to the Bundesliga and current league leaders Bayer Leverkusen, where his performances have gone strength to strength and is now regarded as one of the best full-backs in the division. This season alone, the Dutch international broke 110 touches in opposition box in 2023/24 before any other wing-back could get to 60, is one of just two defenders in Europe’s top five leagues to complete 75+ take-ons in 2023 alongside Alphonso Davies and became the first defender to reach 5+ goals and 5+ assists in Europe’s top seven leagues.

Other notable academy departures and academy graduates:

Shaun Wright-Philipps, Bradley Wright-Philipps, Joey Barton, Stephen Ireland, Nedum Onuoha, Jeremy Helan, Abdul Razak, Micah Richards, Dedryck Boyata, Jeremie Frimpong, Rabbi Matondo, David Brooks.