Manchester City’s teenage striker Kelechi Iheanacho first caught the eye on the club’s pre-season tour of the USA, where he scored two goals in two games, and now the Nigerian is back in the States.
Iheanacho, who is set to sign pro terms with City once he turns 18 in October, is currently training with the Columbus Crew for the next six weeks, after Claudio Reyna, the director of soccer operations for City-backed MLS expansion side New York City FC, reached out to head coach Gregg Berhalter about finding some game time for the promising frontman.
'We don’t get anything,’ Berhalter told the Columbus Dispatch. 'It’s not about us. We’re basically providing training for an individual. He’s 17 years old – hopefully we’re teaching him something. He’s here getting fit and getting sharp and training in a good atmosphere where he can learn. That’s what it’s about.'
Iheanacho has also left an impression on Crew midfielder Ethan Finlay, who can understand why there's such excitement surrounding his future.
'Good kid,' he said. 'Good young player. Obviously he spent his summer with Man City and he’s learning a lot. You can see he’s got some ability and a real nice left foot.
'It’s great to have those types of players in and I think it says a lot about our team and the league that they’re sending guys over here to want to train with us and we’re respected in that regard. It’s a great opportunity for him and for us to play with a great young talent.'
Following reports that Iheanacho will be loaned out in 2015, NYCFC’s involvement in his development thus far points towards him joining the club for their inaugural MLS season alongside the likes of Frank Lampard and David Villa, with chief executive Ferran Sorriano confirming earlier this summer that the roster could boast a number of the Premier League side’s top prospects.
The under-20 international recently scored a hat-trick for the Crew in a behind-closed-doors game against the Dayton Dutch Lions, and, having been officially announced as the league’s 20th franchise in May last year, NYCFC will be hoping for similar production should he join them for their MLS debut.
The potential first-team minutes would no doubt benefit his parent club but, if he then goes on to demonstrate the form which was showcased in pre-season, it could also turn out to be a huge boost to the US outfit’s efforts to be competitive from the get-go.