Man City’s £200m investment is proving everyone wrong as James McAtee signs new contract – Alex Brotherton


It’s fair to say that Manchester City have had a pretty good week without even kicking a ball.

Monday saw the deadline day signing of Argentinian striker Julian Alvarez, one of the most exciting young talents in world football, while Joao Cancelo penned a new five-year contract with the club less than 24 hours later. James McAtee renewed his deal at the Etihad Stadium the following day and news also emerged that City are confident of securing Bernardo Silva’s future.

While renewing the contract of McAtee is the piece of business that will have less of an immediate impact on City’s on-field fortunes, it is the agreement that sends the loudest message to the Blues’ most vehement critics.

The City Football Academy opened its doors in December 2013 with the brief of developing homegrown talents that could climb through the ranks all the way to the first team.

Between Sheikh Mansour’s takeover of the club in 2008 and the opening of the £200m academy in 2013, not a single English player graduated from City’s youth set-up and started a Premier League game. City knew this had to change if they were to become an established domestic and European force.

Youth development takes time but City’s critics jumped on the club’s back as, in the years that followed 2013, nothing much appeared to change.

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Save for the odd cup match – Manuel Pellegrini’s youthful protest against Chelsea in the FA Cup in 2016 springs to mind – homegrown talents rarely got a chance in City’s first team.

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But four years later the seeds of City’s youthful vision began to bear fruit. Phil Foden, an exciting 17-year-old, made his senior City debut in a Champions League game against Feyenoord. When he was 18 he started his first Premier League game, the first homegrown youngster to do so for City for some time.

As we now know, he was a young talent with a clear pathway to the first team. The vast majority of players in City’s youth teams will never play for Guardiola’s side; that is just the harsh reality of trying to make it at an elite level club. But it also takes time to produce young talents capable of reaching the required level.

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This season has seen Cole Palmer embark on a similar path to the one Foden followed four years ago. Since Guardiola handed him his debut last season he has already scored in the Carabao Cup, FA Cup and Champions League, suggesting that he too is not a talent nurtured solely to sell on.

McAtee – a player reportedly keen to go out on loan in search of minutes – deciding to stay for the good of his development suggests that there is a clear pathway for him at City too.

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After nine years of questions and accusations, City are proving everyone wrong. Yes, the academy is there to develop players and sell them on, but its primary function is to unearth future generations of City players.

With Foden, Palmer and now McAtee as proof, they appear to be succeeding.

Do you think McAtee will become a first-team regular at City? Follow our City Is Ours writer Alex Brotherton on Twitter to get involved in the discussion and give us your thoughts in the comments section below.




www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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