The word on the street is that Manchester City will only make two major signings this summer – and if all goes to plan they will be Jorginho and Riyad Mahrez.
But you can be assured there will be other signings – those intended for distribution to other CFG clubs and young prospects who could become first team players in the near or long-term future.
Every summer, City bring in a handful of lesser known players they usually decline to announce. Even Aaron Mooy, who was brought in from sister club Melbourne City at no cost then sold for an initial £8million one year later, was never formally announced by the club.
In January, Umbro announced that City had signed USA international Mix Diskerud on a 4 ½ year deal. Again, not a word from City before the midfielder was loaned back to IFK Göteborg in Sweden.
There is always a purpose and strategy behind these buys – often it is to strengthen a club within the City Football Group, and other times it’s just business – buy someone cheap and look to sell him for profit, as the club did with the likes of Mooy, Florian Lejeune and Rubén Sobrino.
This summer, if all of the rumours pan out, City fans could be in for some quite exciting signings beyond the two big names in the press. One of them is reported to have potential on par with Kylian Mbappé, another is said to be an N’Golo Kanté style wonderkid, and another is currently the youngest player at the World Cup.
So who are the kids in question? Here are the five teenagers who may well be wearing the sky blue of Manchester City come the end of the transfer window.
Rafael Leão (19, Forward)
Rafael Leão would be the most exciting young recruit of the summer for City if only for one reason – he could go straight into Pep Guardiola’s first team plans. Indeed, when City’s interest was first reported back in February, it was said the Sporting CP whiz-kid would be in Pep’s plans for the 2018-19 season if the Blues could strike a deal.
Sporting are in chaos after an attack on their training ground led to big names rescinding their contracts, such as Rui Patricio who has joined Wolves on a free transfer – when he was valued at over £15million. Leão followed the likes of Patricio, William Carvalho and Gelson Martins in deciding enough was enough.
This gives City an opportunity of landing Leão for nothing or, as has been suggested, a ‘goodwill’ fee to Sporting, ensuring good relations continue with the struggling Portuguese giants.
Leão is not short of interest, with neighbours Manchester United as well as Chelsea alleged to have been keen, but if City were able to get a deal over the line this would be a huge coup. The Portugal under-21 international is highly-rated to such a degree that some believe he has Kylian Mbappé level potential.
His appearances mostly came for Sporting B last year in Portugal’s second tier and the UEFA Youth League, with 6’2″ tall Leão scoring for fun and proving he belonged at a higher level. Sporting began to integrate their great young hope into the first-team fold, presenting him with a handful of appearances. He grabbed one of his chances, scoring against arch-rivals FC Porto in a 2-1 defeat.
If City can secure an agreement for the in-demand young forward, they will be getting one of Portuguese football’s most exciting talents in many a year, one who could quite possibly go straight into Pep Guardiola’s plans.
Daniel Arzani (19, Winger)
“Fast, skilful, confident but humble, some believe Arzani has potential to be better than former Australian golden boy Harry Kewell.” – The Guardian
Daniel Arzani of Melbourne City, Manchester City’s Australian sister club, is the youngest player at the 2018 World Cup and though he has been limited to late substitute appearances for the Socceroos, he is an eye-catching young winger with bags of ability.
It was first speculated back in March that Arzani could follow the Aaron Mooy path of moving from Melbourne to Manchester, then going out on loan, and that has now been backed up by reports from his homeland of Australia.
The problem now for City is with the increased exposure Iran-born Arzani is getting, more and more clubs want him. Juventus, Benfica, Bayer Leverkusen and PSV Eindhoven are just some of those being linked with a move for the 19-year-old. With that in mind, it is by no means guaranteed that he will join Manchester City after the World Cup, but the CFG link gives them a fighting chance. If the Blues are successful, he could be loaned to NAC Breda or another club in Europe to continue his development.
Arzani has a natural ability to beat players using his skill and ball control, and his excellent technical ability makes him an ideal Pep Guardiola winger. Whether he would make it at City is another question, but with his price-tag expected to be a modest €1.5million it seems like a win-win situation as his value is sure to skyrocket in the coming years.
Claudio Gomes (17, Midfielder)
Likened to N’Golo Kanté, Claudio Gomes is a diminutive but talented central midfielder who agreed to join Manchester City during the January transfer window. The 17-year-old has had to wait though, with his contract not up until this summer, and this led to him being largely frozen out by an irate Paris Saint-Germain.
Losing Gomes comes as a major blow for the Parisiens, who genuinely viewed him as a player capable of breaking into their star-studded team. With skill, vision and tackling ability, the France under-18 international is described as having exceptional ‘tactical and technical maturity’ and is showing the potential to become a complete midfielder.
Mikel Arteta is said to have played a huge role in luring Gomes to the Etihad Stadium, and the Blues presented him with a clear project for his development including a pathway to the Pep Guardiola’s first team.
According to Le Parisien, the plan (as of February) is to keep him around the first team until January, similar to Phil Foden and Brahim Diaz, then depending on how things are panning out, consider three options: keep him where he is, place him in the under-23 side, or loan him out to a club such as Girona FC or NAC Breda.
In Gomes, City are getting one of the most exciting French players of his generation and with the right development, he could have a shot of making the breakthrough into City’s first-team squad.
Adriá Bernabé (17, Attacking Midfielder)
Like Gomes, Adriá Bernabé is most definitely heading to Manchester City. The 17-year-old product of Espanyol and Barcelona’s La Masia publicly said goodbye to the Catalan club last week and is ready for a new adventure in Manchester.
A gifted attacking midfielder, Bernabé has been one of the most highly thought of players in Barcelona’s esteemed academy and losing him to Man City will come as a major blow. The Catalan club signed him from neighbours Espanyol several years ago and had hoped that he could break through to the first team.
Bernabé will be the second big prospect to quit La Masia for the City Football Academy in a year, after centre-back Eric García, one of Barça’s best defensive hopes since Gerard Piqué, joined last summer. García went on to be named the U-18 Players’ Player of the Year and is showing the potential to go far. City will hope the latest recruit from Barça, Adriá Bernabé, can have a similar debut year.
Jayden Braaf (15, Forward)
The youngest and perhaps least known of the five teenagers is Jayden Braaf of PSV Eindhoven. At the end of May, Rik Elfrink of Eindhovens Dagblad broke the news that City had won the race for the striker after he had been expected to join Premier League rivals Chelsea.
Aged just 15, the Amsterdam-born striker is considered one of the top young players in the Netherlands and has been capped at youth level by his country.
Braaf turns 16 in August and that is when he is expected to officially join Manchester City, who will pay no transfer fee but will have to hand over some developmental fees.
A forward with the ability to cut in from the flanks, Braaf would likely go into the under-18 set-up to start with before moving up to the under-23s.