tribalfootball.com’s third edition of ‘Next Big Thing’ takes a closer look at the most promising names currently on the books at Manchester City.
Continue reading to learn a bit more about our Top 8 coming out of Carrington and Platt Lane in 2013/14.
The 17-year old Brazil-born Portugal U19 international joined City from Benfica in 2011 and has already impressed the Eastlands officials so much that he was named Elite Development Squad captain for 2013/14.
‘Rony’, as he is affectionately known after constantly wearing a Ronaldo shirt at his first club, spent time with Poiares before a five-year stint in Benfica’s youth academy attracted interest from City and he was soon snapped up by the Premier League club.
The left-footed playmaker, who loves to score goals, became the clubs youngest-ever scorer in the FA Cup win over Watford back in January this year and went on to win the inaugural Academy Player of the Year award for the 2012/13 season.
Lopes recalled the thought process that went through his mind when making the move to City in an interview on mcfc.com.
“I thought it would be a new experience and a challenge for me as I like challenges and I knew it would totally change my life because I was coming to a country where I couldn’t speak the language and didn’t know anything over here, but I don’t regret my decision,” he said.
As for his experiences with the first-team during preseason and beyond, Lopes added: “They all talked to me but the one who mostly spoke to me on things like development and improvement was Vincent Kompany. He’s the player who helped me improve and he still helps me as I’m with him every day.”
And the young guns propensity for hard work has certainly not been lost on academy chief Mark Allen who offered the following to the Manchester Evening News in February.
“Last season, I saw Marcos, whilst training with the elite development squad, called over by the manager to train with the first team,” Allen said.
“The first team finished training and walked in, but Marcos came back to the elite development squad and continued to train with them.
“Then the EDS team finished and showered, and had lunch – and Marcos went to the gym. That is the level of focus, determination, drive and commitment you boys need to understand, to succeed at this football club.”
Jose Angel Pozo
The Malaga-born 17-year old attacker has been described on City’s official website as ‘quick over the first 10 yards and, as one might expect from a Spaniard, has great technique, able to find teammates with perfectly weighted passes.’
Pozo was brought to the club from Real Madrid by former City boss Roberto Mancini – for a fee that could rise to £3.5million – in early 2012 after becoming frustrated at a lack of opportunities with the Spanish giants and went on to be top scorer for City’s U21 side despite an ankle injury ending his 2012/13 campaign.
As with Lopes, City academy chief Allen was expecting very big things from Pozo.
"I always think it’s unfair to single out players, it’s a team game – every single person in that squad will be vitally important to us but Marcos and Jose Angel Pozo have done very well this year,” he told the club’s official website in February.
The French striker, who can also operate as an attacking midfielder, joined City this past summer from Auxerre’s academy.
Ambrose was a star for the Burgundy club at both U17 and U19 levels as a 15-year old and has already brought that form to City’s U18 side.
As of December 7, Ambrose has scored nine goals in 10 appearances in the Barclays Premier Academy League vindicating City’s decision to sign him to a four-year deal.
At the time of his Auxerre departure, general manager Fabrice Herrault was loath to lose the talented attacker for nothing, telling L’Yonne Republicaine: "It (the transfer) will be all so low in relation to our disappointment.”
The English defender was a star for the City U19s last season, receiving a nomination for the Academy Player of the Year award, while making his debut for the England U19s.
Leigh operates mainly as a left-back who has the ability to get forward and was close to making his first-team debut in September’s Capital One Cup win over Wigan Athletic but did not quite make the matchday squad.
Of that possible occasion, Elite Development chief Patrick Vieira told Sportsmail: “Two of the young boys will get involved with the first-team, (Marcos) Rony Lopes and Greg Leigh. It is fantastic for them.”
Although Leigh was not involved that night, he is continuing to improve for the City youth sides and is working his way towards senior action which he may see before the 2013/14 campaign is out.
18-year old midfielder Fofana is one of the most exciting young players to come out of France in quite a while.
Classed as a box-to-box mid, Fofana joined City from Lorient in January this year and has quickly established himself in Vieira’s Elite Development Squad this season.
Likened to Yaya Toure, with his rangy movement and ability to strike from distance, the France U18 international signed a three-year deal with City and is expected to push for senior selection in the coming years.
Fofana made his presence felt for City at the U19 Oberndorf Tournament in Germany in the summer, winning the Player of the Tournament award, and he was very humble when receiving the prize.
“I want to say thanks to the staff and my teammates. They’ve supported us throughout the tournament and again I’m pleased to have won this award,” he told the club’s official website.
Jose Angel Tasende
Commonly known as ‘Angelino’, the Spanish defender signed a scholarship with City in July 2013 after appearing regularly for the U18s in 2012/13.
The 16-year old – who turns 17 on January 4 – operates as a speedy left-back who is full of attacking run and can pinpoint crosses at will. He also has a thunderous left peg as evidenced by his 25-yard free-kick against Newcastle United’s U18s last term.
Angelino was called into the U19 UEFA Youth League squad for this season, giving him European experience at a very young age, and he was delighted to be involved after only playing against his own age group with former club Deportivo la Coruna.
“You aren’t given as many chances with Deportivo,” he told the club’s official website. “If you are under 16 you play with the under 16s, they won’t give you an opportunity to move up.
“Playing against people older than me helps my game and I can improve my fitness faster than others. If you have good players around you in the team then it isn’t difficult.”
Angelino, who has dreams to one day play for Spain, also feels he is now adjusting well to the lifestyle in England.
"It is easier now, because my family have now moved and I was able to learn English quickly,” he added.
Out of Anderlecht’s academy, 17-year old defender Bossaerts has impressed City staff with his off-field intelligence as well as his football knowledge on the pitch.
The Belgian youth international is a natural leader and has already skippered the Elite Development Squad during the pre-season tour of Croatia.
He told the club’s official website: “I played with the national team with Belgium in Scotland and I think I played well in the two games there. After I went home and someone called my mum and said, ‘I’m a scout from Manchester City’ and then I signed.
“At the beginning I was a little bit surprised because you don’t expect a big club like Manchester City to call you but I was very proud of that.”
He added: “As a little guy I always watched English football. Manchester City, United and all those clubs.”
When asked to describe himself, Bossaerts said: “I think I’m a defender who can play football from the back. I don’t like to just kick the ball long.”
Bossaerts, who speaks fluent Flemish, French and English, plans to play every game for the EDS this season and would love the opportunity to train with the first team.
English midfielder Bryan joined the City Academy from his local side Hough End Griffins when in the U12s and has since gone on to represent the Premier League clubs U21 side.
A controlling midfielder who likes to get forward, the 17-year old has played for England at both U16 and U17 levels and signed a two-year scholarship with City in July.
“He has been my idol since I was a kid,” he said. “He’s the spine of the team for Liverpool and England. Look at the game (World Cup qualifier) against Poland at Wembley (in October) – he led the team, he was everywhere and he scored a goal.”
As for his own mission, Bryan insists he is looking to make the evolutionary next step of becoming a regular in the U21s.
“My aim for this season is to break through into the under-21s and play a few games for them. I’ve played for the under-19s in Europe, trained with the EDS and now made my first appearance for the under-21s, so it feels like the next step,” he added.
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