Have Manchester City shot themselves in the foot when it comes to youth?

With so few young players breaking into the first team, will City be able to compete for the stars of tomorrow?

When Scott Sinclair moved to Manchester City in the summer, he no doubt did so in the belief that his talent would outweigh his circumstances.

Following two outstanding seasons for Swansea City, the 23-year-old believed he was good enough for the first team. If he hadn’t, he wouldn’t have signed.

And yet he would have done well to exchange a few words with a player making his exit that same summer; because in many ways, Adam Johnson’s time at Manchester City foreshadowed that of Sinclair.

Having made his debut for Middlesbrough at just 17, Johnson made 96 appearances for the Teesside club before joining City at the age of 22. But upon leaving for Sunderland, he warned young players to think hard before choosing the Blues.

Now, if I was a young lad,” he said, “I probably wouldn’t go to City.”

It was a statement the likes of Sinclair and Jack Rodwell ignored, which of course is their prerogative. But following Gary Neville’s comments that City must give more game-time to their younger players, the truth of the matter is that City may have lost that opportunity.

If players in their early-twenties cannot appear regularly for the first-team, what hope do teenagers have?

And if there is so little hope, why choose City in the first place?

Given their financial circumstances, it is no surprise that Roberto Mancini’s side have signed some of the world’s best players. Who wouldn’t?

But where is the legacy? Where is the future-development? Where are the players who will form the bedrock of success for the next decade?

City fans are understandably celebrating the news that Yaya Toure has signed a new contract with the club, but did he sign because he is committed or because they gave him what he wanted?

With the ink dry on a new contract, Toure said the Etihad is where he wanted to be. But in the weeks before that, his agent spoke of disillusionment and the likelihood of moving on.

It was tactic like any other in football, designed to achieve the best possible result. But that is the situation City have forced upon themselves. When Toure does eventually leave, or when his powers wane, where is the young replacement already with games under his belt?

There isn’t one. So the chequebook will come out once again.

We expect football clubs to spend money. And when they have a lot to spend we shouldn’t hold that against them.

But there needs to be a two-pronged approach to squad development – ready-made purchases and youngsters with the club in their blood.

And that doesn’t have to be players who have been with the club since their age was in single figures, only that they have grown up there. And remember how much growing up is done in your late-teens and early-twenties.

Clubs throughout the Premier League have given youth the chance, some through choice and others through necessity. But rarely has that been seen at the Etihad in recent seasons.

At 20, Matija Nastasic is the outstanding exception to the rule. And of course there is Joe Hart. But that really is it. And as much as fans talk up John Guidetti and Denis Suarez they are rarely seen.

Perhaps they will be in the coming seasons. Perhaps a legacy of youth will one day return to the blue side of Manchester.

But as the next batch of the world’s best young players contemplate their future, City have not shown themselves to be the ideal destination if you wish to play the game as well as be paid for it.

Will any of City's current young players break into the first-team?  And does the club need to change its approach regarding youth?

image: © imbecillisalad

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