Football Features

What happened next? The worst cases of Man City’s development problem

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 12:00, 2 March 2021

Manchester City have a developmental problem with their youth teamers.

While their local rivals Manchester United have gone a mind-boggling 4,077 consecutive games with a youth team player in their match day squad, City are about to lose yet another sensational young player in Eric Garcia.

Guardiola said, of Garcia: “He’s going to play in Barcelona and that is not an average player – he is a top player,” adding: “he was not selected in the last two games and it broke my heart.”

Garcia, signed from Barcelona back in 2017, has been developed into a superb defender at the Etihad under Guardiola’s watch. The Catalan coach would have wanted his compatriot to come through the ranks and star for the City defence.

Instead Garcia’s reticence to sign a new contract was clear in the summer (if Barcelona hadn’t been financially devastated it’s likely he’d already have left then) and he is now set to join a long list of great talents to leave the Etihad Campus without ever getting much of a chance to show his stuff for the first-team.

As much as Phil Foden is going to be a star and Oleksandr Zinchenko is a decent squad guy, they are rare exceptions to the rule. Tosin Adarabioyo is thriving at Fulham and you’d expect Eric Garcia to do the same at Barcelona.

To keep up with the trend, we’ve listed some of the other big examples of City botching things with one of their youngsters and tracked what happened next.

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Jadon Sancho

Time at Manchester City: 2015-2017

Games for Manchester City: 0

The magnificent Jadon Sancho left City in 2017 as he felt ready for more first-team minutes than Pep Guardiola was willing to provide. What Happened Next? He joined Borussia Dortmund, immediately got handed the no. 7 shirt and made his debut within two months of moving to the Bundesliga. Since then he’s gone from strength-to-strength, developing a phenomenally rounded attacking skill-set and becoming one of the brightest talents across all of Europe.

Would it have killed Pep to give the kid some minutes? He could have been a mainstay of City’s right side by now and would have made signing Riyad Mahrez uncessary, saving the club a cool £60m. City could especially live to regret this if he does return to England and join Manchester United or Liverpool, as many are speculating he will.

Kieran Trippier

Time at Manchester City: 1999-2009

Games for Manchester City: 0

After a decade at City, Trippier had yet to break into the first-team so left on loan to Barnsley. A loan and subsequent permanent move to Burnley followed. What Happened Next? Trippier excelled under Sean Dyche and earned a move to Tottenham where he became a key member of Mauricio Pochettino’s outfit, established himself as an England regular and scored in a World Cup semi-final. He was deemed surplus to requirements and moved to Spain to play for Atlético Madrid where he is on course to win the Liga title despite recently serving a ban for breaching betting rules.

Not a huge miss for City as Kyle Walker and now Joao Cancelo have served them well, but still an immense talent.

Daniel Sturridge

Time at Manchester City: 2006-2009

Games for Manchester City: 32 (6 goals)

Sturridge was voted as Man City’s young player of the year in 2008/09, which made it all the more galling to the club that he, like Garcia, let his contract run down. What Happened Next? The youngster joined Chelsea and immediately played a squad role over the next four years (barring a brief loan to Bolton), winning the Premier League and Champions League with the Blues.

Sturridge then moved to Liverpool where he became a key part of their phenomenal title charge in 2013/14, but began to suffer greatly with injuries. Although he spent seven years on Merseyside, he never really looked like recapturing the glory of 2014 and left the club for Turkish side Trabzonspor just before Liverpool’s title triumph in 2019/20. He was doing well in Turkey but was released from his contract just before FIFA issued him a four-month ban for breaching betting rules.

Could City have used him? Well, sure. A player of his talent is always useful. But he’s so injury-prone that it’s hard to say they missed him.

Ben Mee

Time at Manchester City: 2008-2012

Games for Manchester City: 1

Mee was born and raised in Manchester and won the youth cup with City (as captain) in 2008. He played just one League Cup game for the side before being loaned out, first to Leicester and then to Burnley. He signed permanently for the Clarets in 2012 at the same time as his youth cup team-mate Kieran Trippier.

What Happened Next? Over the subsequent years Mee has become nothing less than a Burnley legend. He’s currently club captain and their defensive colossus who has helped them become an established Premier League side. He’s 18 months from making it onto Burnley’s all-time top 10 appearance-makers as well. Could he have helped City? Given all the nonsense they paired Vincent Kompany with over the years it’s hard to say that Mee wouldn’t have done well there, but perhaps he needed the guidance of Sean Dyche to find his way.

David Brooks

Time at Manchester City: 2004-2014

Games for Manchester City: 0

What Happened Next? After a decade in the youth system, Brooks moved to Sheffield United where he made his first-team debut after a season and his first international cap with Wales soon followed. Brooks eventually moved to Bournemouth where he remains to this day. However under Eddie Howe he developed into a wonderfully elegant and dynamic attacker, the kind of player Pep Guardiola would love to have in his side. It’s such a shame that his entire 2019/20 was wrecked with injury and now he has to rebuild himself.

Kasper Schmeichel

Time at Manchester City: 2005-2009

Games for Manchester City: 10

Son of a Manchester United legend, Kasper played a few times for the City first team but most of his stint stint at the Etihad was spent out on loan in the lower leagues. He finally left City permanently in 2009, however. What Happened Next? A year at Notts County in League Two was enough to convince Championship Leeds to sign him, and after one year there he joined Leicester.

The rest, as they say, is history. Schmeichel became Denmark’s no. 1, helped Leicester win the Chamionship, survive in the Premier League and then, implausibly, win the Premier League. The miracle of 2015/16 will always be an achievement that Schmeichel can cling to with immense pride that, even if he was probably never good enough to be City’s starting goalkeeper. He has carved out a damn fine career for himself completely separate from both City and the towering legacy of his father.