As Manchester City comfortably cruised into the quarter finals of the FA Cup, there was one player who stood out above all the rest.
While Sergio Aguero, Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling will take the plaudits from the national media for their contribution, it was Aleix Garcia who really caught the eye on Wednesday night as the Blues set up a tie with Middlesbrough later in March.
The young Spaniard was tireless and barely put a foot wrong all game as he showed maturity beyond his years to keep City’s midfield ticking over, and ensured the visiting Huddersfield players were dragged over every blade of grass at the Etihad.
His passing was simple – just what Pep Guardiola demands from his team. Of his 94 against the Terriers, 85 found a teammate, giving the 19-year-old a 90 per cent pass completion. With 107 touches, he had more than any other player on the pitch – Kevin de Bruyne was next on the list with 98.
While there was nothing particularly glamorous or spectacular about his display, the way he grew into the game and demanded the ball on a regular basis was an indication of his confidence and willingness to impress his manager.
In addition to his possession retention, Garcia also won both of his aerial duels – not bad considering he is only 5ft 7in – and he showed his ability to read the game by making seven interceptions, again more than any other player.
This performance will certainly have caught the eye of Pep Guardiola, who was renowned for giving youth a chance during his time at Barcelona and Bayern Munich.
Garcia is of a similar mould to that of fellow Spaniards Sergio Busquets and Xabi Alonso – not physically, by any means, but in terms of his ability to manipulate the ball and ensure that his team retains possession. This is crucial to Guardiola’s philosophy and it is a trait of the youngster’s style of play.
He starred in the League Cup exit to United where he made 90 passes, more than any other player, and only Fernando had a better pass completion – the Brazilian had 96 per cent, compared to Garcia’s 94.
Appearances in the first team have been few and far between for Garcia, who only has 27 minutes of Premier League football to his name this season – coming in three substitute appearances against Bournemouth, West Brom and Middlesbrough.
However, despite a lack of game time in the senior squad, it is positive for the starlet – poached from Villarreal by Manuel Pellegrini in 2015 – that he has not been sent out on loan and that Guardiola wants to keep him at the Etihad Campus to oversee his development.
With the City midfield almost certain to have an overhaul this summer, there is a host of big names being linked with mega-money moves to the club. But with an array of talent within the ranks already, the need to spend obscenely is completely unnecessary.
In Garcia, the Blues have a player who has represented Spain at every youth level up to under-19s and who is quietly going under the radar while he trains alongside the maestro, David Silva.
There is still some fine tuning left to be done, but there is no doubt that City have a very special talent on their hands in Garcia. A player who will hopefully have a very bright future at the club.
Written by Chris Wildgoose
Typical City is now funded by the readers through our Patreon page. Please consider funding us with $1 a month so we can continue to operate as we are now. It keeps the site independent and free from click-bait.