Phil Foden once looked up to Manchester City’s first-team stars so much that he was starstruck in training. Now he’s the icon paving the way for the younger generation in Pep Guardiola’s squad.
The 21-year-old is proof that City have it all as a football club: top finances, state-of-the-art facilities and now a top-class academy producing talent worthy of playing for the Premier League champions.
Once the standout academy product in this City team, Foden has been joined by several youth stars that are being brought through by Guardiola this season. The most exciting of which is Cole Palmer, whose expert finish against Club Brugge handed him his first Champions League goal and greater expectation on his shoulders.
Pep Guardiola (second right) claims there are several Man City youngsters coming through
Sportsmail looks at which players will follow the likes of Phil Foden (right) in making the grade
But after City’s 5-1 European win in Belgium, Guardiola dropped an even more exciting claim – that five or six more City youngsters are ready to make the step up to the first-team this season.
‘Who knows?’ Guardiola teased. ‘If they continue to be humble and work they can be important for Manchester City.’
Sportsmail goes through the youngsters Guardiola is tipping to make a breakthrough at Manchester City in the coming years…
First-team games: 7 (2 goals)
Let’s start with the man of the moment. Cole Palmer’s stock has risen so high that some Manchester City are already calling for the 19-year-old midfielder to start more Premier League games.
Palmer curled home a wonderful effort just minutes after coming on in Belgium last Tuesday night, which adds to his delightful goal he netted in City’s 6-1 thrashing of Wycombe in the Carabao Cup last month.
Cole Palmer scored his first Champions League goal in City’s 5-1 win over Club Bruges
The teenager is very much in the form of his life, having scored a hat-trick for City’s Under 23s team last weekend just a few hours after playing for the first-team in the Premier League against Burnley.
Palmer has also taken his goalscoring form to the youth international stage, scoring two goals in three matches for England’s Under-21s team, where he is mixing with established Premier League stars such as Emile Smith Rowe, Curtis Jones and Connor Gallagher.
The midfielder has been at City since the age of eight, rejecting an offer Manchester United in the process despite coming from the same suburb as Marcus Rashford.
Before joining City, Palmer also had trials at Liverpool and Bolton but failed to impress the academy staff there, while he was nearly culled from the Etihad academy a few years ago for being too small.
The 19-year-old midfielder curled in a brilliant effort during City’s Champions League win
Palmer (right) scored a similar effort in a 6-1 thrashing of Wycombe in the Carabao Cup
Now over 6ft and impressing at first-team level, Guardiola has called for patience regarding Palmer’s development.
‘The people in this world want things immediately but everything needs time,’ Guardiola said. ‘You cannot cook a good dish if you don’t spend time in the kitchen.
‘Cole has a special quality that’s difficult to find, he finishes it most of the time. He’s training with us and taking our principles. He’s a player for the future of this club.’
First-team games: 3 (1 goal)
Liam Delap may only be 18, but he’s technically Manchester City’s first-choice centre-forward at the club.
With Gabriel Jesus being used in a wide role, Delap is the only recognised No 9 option, though Guardiola does like to use a false nine in matches, which rotates between Raheem Sterling, Kevin de Bruyne and Phil Foden.
Liam Delap, (second right), son of ex-Stoke star Rory, is another youngster like by Guardiola
Delap is yet to feature for the City first-team this season, though did make his breakthrough last term when Sergio Aguero first got injured and Guardiola was lacking options up front.
The son of former Stoke long thrower Rory scored in a Carabao Cup third round victory against Bournemouth last season, and made his Premier League debut three days later in a 5-2 home loss to Leicester City.
He made one more first-team appearance under Guardiola before going back to City’s Under-23s team, where he scored 24 goals in 20 matches in the Premier League 2.
The 18-year-old City forward scored in a Carabao Cup victory over Bournemouth last season
Delap was approached by several Championship clubs over a potential loan move, but Guardiola was very keen to keep him despite the offer of playing more professional football.
‘Liam Delap, for me (and) for the club, is so important for the future,’ Guardiola said in August. ‘He is going to train with us, if a striker comes or doesn’t come. He will train with us all season.’
First-team games: 1
Young winger Sam Edozie was a surprise name in City’s starting line-up for the Community Shield defeat to Leicester City back in August.
The 18-year-old impressed for City’s youth sides and turned out for both the Under-18 and Under-23 teams last season, ending the campaign with seven goals and five assists in nearly 30 games.
Edozie then trained with the first-team over the pre-season calendar and scored in all three friendlies against EFL sides Preston, Barnsley and Blackpool, which earned him a spot in the Community Shield starting line-up at Wembley.
Winger Sam Edozie (right) was named in City’s Community Shield staring line-up in August
The winger is clearly highly-rated at the Etihad Stadium and City reportedly paid a seven-figure fee to take him from Millwall’s academy in 2019, meaning the Premier League champions are backing the teenager to kick on.
Edozie has not yet featured for the first-team since his Wembley outing, but keep an eye on the name.
First-team games: 1
City’s academy starlet are not just attacking players, there are plenty of promising defensive options that Guardiola is keeping an eye on.
The most defensive of those players is Luke Mbete, who started City’s 6-1 Carabao Cup win over Wycombe Wanderers and is looking forward to more first-team opportunities.
Defender Luke Mbete was handed his debut in City’s 6-1 thrashing of Wycombe last month
Mbete has been at the club for five years after he was poached by City from Brentford, who closed their academy five years ago to set up their ‘B team’ set-up.
The 18-year-old used to be a striker when he was playing in west London, but the Bees helped him transition into a defender – where Guardiola is using him in the first-team set-up now.
Speaking about his first-team debut against Wycombe last month, Mbete said: ‘I think we coped with it very well. We’re young, but we didn’t take that into consideration.
‘We played like it was a normal game. The players and the fans helped us a lot; they were brilliant. And obviously the support from (Pep Guardiola) as well and the staff behind the scenes.’
Mbete (right) used to be a striker at Brentford but is now at the heart of the defence
Position: Defensive midfielder
First-team games: 1
The youngest of academy hopefuls looking to break into the Manchester City first-team this season is 17-year-old Belgian midfielder Romeo Lavia.
The teenager was spotted by Pep Guardiola himself while the City boss was attending the KDB Cup, a youth tournament hosted by club midfielder Kevin de Bruyne in his native Belgium, that he invited the Spanish manager too.
Romeo Lavia (left) is another City teenager who was handed a start against Wycombe
A year after Guardiola’s scouting mission, Lavia joined the City academy and was voted as the Under-23s Player of the Season as his side won the Premier League 2 title.
Like Mbete, Lavia was handed his first-team debut in the thumping win over Wycombe and picked up his first professional booking in the process.
Lavia, who is a Belgium Under-19 international, admits he is learning off City club captain Fernandinho, while the teenager is also a fan of Sergio Busquets, who Guardiola managed at Barcelona.
The 17-year-old (left) is trying to learn off City club captain Fernandinho for midfield advice
‘I’ve watched a lot of Fernandinho and Busquets,’ the teenager told Goal. Those two have dominated the game as defensive midfielders. I’ve looked at them a lot.
‘Fernandinho knows what he’s doing – he doesn’t run just to run. He’s like the brain of the team. When you’re young you want to run – left, right – but he knows what he’s doing so he won’t run as much, but will still be effective.
‘That’s something I keep learning from him. I’ve spoken to him but not in person because of Covid, so just on social media.’