In Focus: City youngsters ready to make Premier League breakthrough
Manchester City might have one of the most expensively-assembled squads in world football — but the Citizens also boast a prolific academy.
The six-time Premier League champions have put an emphasis on developing their own youngsters and there are a number of prodigious talents on the cusp of Pep Guardiola’s first team.
We profile five players to keep an eye on at the Etihad next season.
Having been handed a taste of first-team involvement in 2020, boyhood fan Cole Palmer enjoyed a breakthrough season last year.
The Wythenshawe-born forward, 20, made 11 appearances in all competitions, scoring in the Champions League, FA Cup and Carabao Cup.
Had it not been for a foot injury suffered in January, the England Under-21s international would surely have played a big part in the second half of the campaign.
Nicknamed 'Mini Mahrez' due to his similarity in playing style to the Algerian, Palmer’s technical ability and keen eye for goal have been evident throughout his City career.
He netted 15 times and bagged five assists while captaining the Citizens’ U-18s to the league title in 2019-20 and senior honours will surely follow.
Liam Delap’s chances of regular minutes have taken a hit with the arrival of fellow strikers Erling Haaland and Julian Alvarez.
But the 19-year-old forward has already played and scored for City, netting his first senior goal in a 2-1 win over Bournemouth in the Carabao Cup in September 2020.
Delap, son of former Stoke and Southampton midfielder Rory Delap, followed in his father’s footsteps by starting out at Derby before joining City in 2019.
Blessed with more pace than his dad, as well as no little skill and power, Delap bagged 30 goals in 2020-21 — with 24 of those coming for City’s U-23s side in Premier League 2.
Like the aforementioned Palmer, injuries disrupted his most recent campaign but he still grabbed eight in 10 Premier League 2 games as City’s youngsters lifted the title.
Despite being just 18, centre-back Luke Mbete was a regular in City’s matchday squad last term and an unused substitute on 14 occasions in the Premier League.
The Westminster-born defender made his senior debut in the Carabao Cup win over Wycombe and appeared twice more before the season’s end — in the FA Cup and Champions League.
Cool, calm and composed, Mbete has relished the opportunities he has been afforded to impress Guardiola and his coaching staff.
He said: "I feel the advice that the first team give me is really good. I know I came on in a couple of competitions and obviously I’m pleased.
"I take it as it goes. I try and put in everything I’ve learned from my manager and team-mates into the game."
Signed from Brentford when their academy closed in 2016 to switch to a B team model, the Bees’ loss is City’s gain.
When your grandparents are both Manchester City legends, making the grade at the Etihad carries extra significance.
That is the case for midfielder Tommy Doyle, 20, who is the grandson of City icons Mike Doyle and Glyn Pardoe — former team-mates at the club.
And Pardoe, who is City’s youngest-ever player, was thrilled to see a bit of himself in his grandson.
He said: "I’ve seen some players in my time, but I’ve never seen anyone with a better attitude than Tom.
"I thought mine was good but his is different class and he’s so confident — not cocky — and he can play."
Unlike the others on this list, Doyle has already cut his teeth at first-team level, ending last season on loan at Championship side Cardiff. He previously spent time in 2. Bundesliga with 1983 European Cup champions Hamburg.
Defender CJ Egan-Riley started the season by debuting against Wycombe and ended it with his top-flight bow against Newcastle.
In between, he played a full 90 minutes against Sporting in the second leg of the Champions League last-16 tie and was a substitute in six of City’s final nine Premier League fixtures.
Captain of the Citizens’ Elite Development Squad that won the Premier League 2 title, Egan-Riley, 19, has relished working with the club’s established stars.
He said: "I am just like a sponge trying to soak everything in and trying to get those little details of how I can improve my game.
"Obviously, I try and help the team out where I can in training or if I am asked to play five minutes, just to enjoy moments like this when we win the league, which is what we all do it for."
With Kyle Walker now 32, and Joao Cancelo predominantly playing left-back, Egan-Riley could be set to feature more regularly at right-back in 2022-23.