The arrival of 19-year-old Brazilian prodigy Gabriel Jesus for the bargain fee of £29 million (and yes, it is a bargain in this market) has prompted unprecedented excitement at the Etihad Stadium.
Jesus is objectively City’s most prestigious scoop of youth to date, but let’s hope his explosive start to life at the club turns out to be more than just a flash in the pan.
Here’s ten academy prospects who were endeared by the Blues’ faithful but never quite made the cut.
10. Kieran Trippier – 1999-2012
Among the young English full-back collection taking the Premier League by the scruff of its neck, the 26-year-old already had bags of potential when plying his trade in the East of Manchester. Since his release in 2012, Trippier has gone on to be in two Championship teams of the year and amassed 145 appearances for Burnley before securing a move to Tottenham at the start of the 2015/16 season. Known for his devastating delivery and pace, the adaptation of Trippier into a City team bereft of youthful full backs makes for wishful thinking.
9. Daniel Sturridge – 2003-2009
Known for his famous dancing celebration (not to mention his skill, goal-scoring touch and innovative combinations) Sturridge was a major prospect in the Stuart Pearce era onward. Often leading the line and free-scoring in youth competitions such as the FA Youth Cup, the Englishman scored his first ever senior City goal in an FA Cup tie with Sheffield United in 2008. Though he managed to steadily ease his way into the 2008/2009 side for a brief time and bag a Young Player of the Season award, Sturridge’s contract wasn’t renewed due to his reportedly high wage demands. He left for Chelsea and years later, became an integral part of the current Liverpool squad.
8. Micah Richards – 2001-2015
Micah Richards, or ‘Meeks’ as he is well-known, established himself as a firm fan favourite at Eastlands before being sold to Aston Villa in 2015 after injuries hindered his playing style. One of my first ever footballing idols, Richards possessed power, strength and presence going forward as well as a defensive tenacity. By far the best English full-back in the 2011/2012 season with the most assists in the league for a defender, the question still remains; why, oh why, was Glen Johnson favoured for Euro 2012?
7. Denis Suarez – 2011-2013
At the tender age of 23, Suarez has already made a name for himself as one of the most promising midfielders in world football. Snapped up by City in 2011, not many predicted the Spaniard to reach his current heights. After departing the Blues in 2013, a spell with Sevilla followed by an impressive term at Villarreal in 2016 eventually turned the heads of Barcelona, where he now plies his trade with some of the greatest players in world football.
6. Vladimir Weiss – 2008-2012
City’s struggle for width before the arrival of Pep Guardiola, in hindsight, could’ve been slightly eased if this talented young Slovakian had been given more of an opportunity under Roberto Mancini. After impressing in the League Cup against Arsenal in 2009, Weiss’s future seemed exciting before a move to Rangers saw the Blues miss out on some potential wing wizardry. He’s now playing for Al-Gharafa Sports Club in Qatar.
5. Karim Rekik – 2011-2015
Still considered a wasteful shipment away from the Etihad, the Dutch defender has been organising backlines at a high level for nearly five years and currently plays for Marseille. The sale of Rekik is a mysterious one – the centre-back had all the qualities capable of fitting into a City side that lacked appropriate back-up for skipper, Vincent Kompany. His premature departure was made all the more frustrating by his current age being a prosperous 22.
4. Stephen Ireland – 2001-2010
Superman — a name given to this Irish whipper-snapper back in 2008 for the brief reveal of, well, his Superman briefs after scoring against Sunderland. Ireland was justly adored, spearheading City to the last eight of the UEFA Cup and a mid-table finish the following season in a side which contained Robinho. Even though he wouldn’t have fit into the new era side, it’s no surprise the fans didn’t want to see him depart.
3. Marcos Lopes – 2011-2015
‘Rony’ was admired for his sensational centre of gravity and equipped with quick feet and strength. The youngster’s performances for City’s Elite Development Squad caught the eye of Manuel Pellegrini on a few occasions, most impressing in the away leg of a League Cup semi-final tie at the Boleyn Ground, where he terrorised James Tompkins all match. Unfortunately, his inclusion waned, with Monaco seizing the opportunity to sign the Portuguese stalwart in 2015.
2. Shaun Wright-Phillips – 1999-2005 & 2008-2011
One of the shortest players in Premier League history, Wright-Phillips’s ability on the ball certainly made up for his lack of height. A pacey winger with head twisting agility, the fan favourite opted for a switch to Chelsea in 2005. This was the last news City supporters needed to hear, with Wright-Phillips arguably being our best player at the time. The £20 million fee just wasn’t quite enough to fill the void and after his career at Stamford Bridge faltered, the little man returned to City for a second spell in 2008 and scored twice on his second debut. He stayed for another three seasons before Roberto Mancini deemed him surplus to requirements and he left for Queens Park Rangers in 2011.
1. Michael Johnson – 2004-2012
Drawing comparisons with Steven Gerrard and Colin Bell, Johnson burst onto the scene at the age of 18 and stunned spectators with his elegance, balance and poise on the ball. On his way to securing heroic status, the Urmston-born prospect’s career sadly fell flat due to injury problems and personal grievances which ultimately led to weight-gain, fatigue and a mutually terminated contract. A tragic footballing story for a wonderfully gifted talent.
Written by Emilio Galantini
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