An aging Manchester City squad is set to get something of a makeover this summer, and the clear out has already begun with James Milner’s free transfer to Liverpool locked in for July 1.
Dedryck Boyata and Frank Lampard have also departed for Celtic and New York City FC respectively, while Edin Dzeko and Stevan Jovetic are strongly linked with moves away from the Etihad Stadium.
City are rumoured to be keen on bringing in the likes of Paul Pogba and Kevin De Bruyne as Manuel Pellegrini looks to reduce the average age of his squad, but there are also a number of options already at the club.
Marcos “Rony” Lopes, Jason Denayer and Kelechi Iheanacho will be aiming to feature in the first team this offseason as the club heads to Australia for games against Adelaide United, Roma and Real Madrid.
Perhaps most importantly, all three would fit the Premier League’s homegrown criteria having trained in England for three years before turning 18; each club is allowed a maximum of 17 non homegrown players in their 25-man squad.
Currently only Joe Hart, Richard Wright and Gael Clichy fall into that category as Micah Richards is currently exploring other options following his loan spell with Fiorentina.
Of City’s current strongest line up on paper (if you play Martin Demichelis over Eliaquim Mangala), Sergio Aguero is the youngest having just turned 27.
There is no doubt that an injection of youth is required, and those familiar with the club’s underage system are well aware of the talents of Lopes, Denayer and Iheanacho.
19 | Attacking midfielder | Portuguese
Brazil born Lopes is probably the most well known of City’s three prospects, having played for the first team five times to date.
He was signed from Benfica as a 16-year-old for a reported £790,000, and was always earmarked for big things while part of an extended first team squad.
Indeed, the Portuguese underage international became the youngest goalscorer in the club’s history when he netted in the 3-0 FA Cup win over Watford back in January 2013, aged just 17 years and 9 days.
His finest showing in a City shirt came in the League Cup semi-final first leg against West Ham in January of last year as he put in a superb performance to claim the Man of the Match award having set up goals for Sergio Aguero and Alvaro Negredo in a resounding 6-0 victory.
An exciting attacker who is predominantly left footed, Lopes is effective on both wings, and he spent the 2014/15 season on loan with Lille in Ligue 1, scoring 3 times in 17 league appearances
Lopes’ “Rony” nickname comes from his childhood days when he would more often than not turn up for training in a Brazil shirt with Ronaldo on the back.
Talent is not enough for the first-team. Your work-ethic, focus and determination has to be there. I believe Lopes has those things.
– Patrick Vieira
19 | Defender | Belgian
Manchester City’s central defensive problems have come under much scrutiny over the past few months with Vincent Kompany struggling for form, Mangala still not settled in England following his big money move to Eastlands, and Demichelis in the twilight of his career.
Centre half Jason Denayer has been on the club’s books since 2013, joining after a successful trial, and impressed in the Elite Development Squad to the point where he was nominated for Player of the Year award following the 2013/14 season.
A loan switch to Celtic was deemed the perfect way for the Belgian to pick up some first team experience, and the move couldn’t have gone better as Denayer was voted the PFA Scotland Young Player of the Year.
He was a mainstay in Ronny Delia’s team, scoring 5 times in 29 appearances as the Bhoys claimed their 46th title by a comfortable 17 points.
His efforts resulted in a call up to the Belgian national side and a first cap as a substitute in March’s Euro 2016 qualifier away to Israel.
Contracted at City until the end of next season, Denayer will be keen to make an impression and should at least see some game time in the League Cup, provided he isn’t sent out on loan again.
Jason is ambitious – he wants to play at the highest level he can. But it’s playing that is the most important thing, and playing at Manchester City is very, very hard. If not, I think Celtic is a good club for him.
– Ronny Delia
18 | Forward | Nigerian
A highly rated striker, Iheanacho’s career at City had been held up by work permit issues but he has now been granted a visa as a special talent and can represent the club in official games.
The 18-year-old was part of the City squad that toured the US last summer and impressed greatly, scoring against Sporting Kansas City before repeating the trick a few days later in the resounding 5-1 win over AC Milan.
At international level, he shot to prominence in 2013, bagging six goals and seven assists for Nigeria in the FIFA U17 World Cup, and he currently a member of the squad competing in the U20 World Cup in New Zealand.
Iheanacho’s 2014/15 season was hampered by injury but he still managed six goals in seven season towards the end of the campaign, including an excellent solo effort against Manchester United in the derby (see below).
If Jovetic departs for pastures new then City have a player on their books who is more than capable of taking on the workload.
Kelechi is an exciting player. I love the way he plays and I feel that he will have a good career at the club and go on to become one of the players of the future.
– Yaya Youre