As the City squad touched down in Toronto, eight members of Patrick Vieira’s EDS side joined the likes of Vincent Kompany and Sergio Aguero on the tarmac.
Manuel Pellegrini has been keen to give promising youngsters a chance to write their name into his first team plans on a series of both post and pre-season tours over the last two years and has again rewarded a collection of youngsters for their showings this season.
Brandon Barker, Bersant Celina, George Evans, Seko Fofana, Manu Garcia, Pablo Maffeo, Olivier Ntcham and Jose Angel Pozo have travelled with the first team squad, and we’ve run the rule over the less familiar faces looking to make their mark in North America.
A local lad who first passed through the City Academy doors at the age of 11, Brandon Barker made his senior City debut earlier this term with a place in the starting XI against Hamburg, lining up alongside Edin Dzeko and Stevan Jovetic as part of January’s mid-season tour to Abu Dhabi.
A winger with frightening pace and an eye for goal, he can run directly down the line or cut inside – adept with either foot. The 18-year-old signed his first professional contract last July after picking up the Academy Players’ Player of the Year for an outstanding 2013/14.
Six goals in five games this term helped propel City to the FA Youth Cup final, while his performances on the left wing in combination with Angelino have made the EDS a terrifying prospect for opposing full-backs throughout the season. An England youth international, his fledgling talent has sparked the terrace chant ‘Brandon Barker, he scores when he wants’.
Already a senior Kosovo international at the tender age of 18, Bersant Celina is something of a tour veteran for his age after his inclusion in the squad for the mid-season trip to Abu Dhabi.
A versatile forward who thrives in the no.10 role, it’s been a rollercoaster 12 months for the youngster, signed from Norwegian side Stromsgodset. Celina inked his name to a first professional contract last summer after just one year as a scholar, but began the season with the u18s to regain fitness after injury curtailed his previous campaign early.
However, he was soon promoted to Vieira’s EDS squad and caught the eye in the UEFA Youth League, scoring four times in just 222 minutes of group stage action.
Manuel Pellegrini was quick to recognise his potential and Celina took his place on the bench for the first team FA Cup encounter with Sheffield Wednesday in January, before making his senior debut against Hamburg in the UAE.
Another member of the group getting his second taste of tour action this season, George Evans set up the opening goal for Stevan Jovetic against Hamburg in January with a perfectly-placed pass over the top for the Montenegrin to fire home.
A defensive midfielder by trade, George has often played in central defence for Patrick Vieira’s u21s this season and relished his role as a ball-playing centre back.
Now 20 years old, Evans spent the majority of the 2013/14 campaign on loan at Crewe Alexandra, making 24 appearances for the Railwaymen and turned out 15 times for Scunthorpe United as part of a second youth loan this term designed to advance his development in the professional game.
On the bench for a Champions League game against Ajax in the Amsterdam ArenA in 2012, George would become the first ever player to represent City at every single level of the club if he makes a competitive first team appearance.
After joining City from Lorient in 2013, Seko Fofana was nominated for the EDS Player of the year award in his first full season in England. The box-to-box midfielder highlights Yaya Toure as his biggest inspiration, and he possesses the same dynamic range of movement and eye for a long range strike.
After turning out for the EDS 35 times in 2013/14, he was sent out on loan in November to Fulham, with the club’s coaches keen to see how he would fare in the hurly-burly of the Championship. Immediately staking a claim on the starting XI on his arrival at Craven Cottage, the London-based outfit took the option to extend his stay in January until the end of the season, and were rewarded with 21 appearances from the young Frenchman.
Considered one of his country’s finest young prospects, he combines a good turn of pace with great passing ability, and will now be hoping to add a City first team bow to his list of accomplishments.
The youngest member of the travelling party, Manu Garcia only celebrated his 17th birthday in January. An exciting and talented attacking midfielder signed from Sporting Gijon, the Spanish youth international has been an integral part of Jason Wilcox’s u18 squad that progressed all the way to the FA Youth Cup final.
His performances at Academy level caught Vieira’s keen eye, and he made his UEFA Youth League debut against Roma in December, grabbing two assists in 11 minutes after emerging from the bench late on.
Rewarded with his u21 debut in the second half of the season, Garcia’s standout performance came against Leicester in the International Premier League Cup semi-final, when he came off the bench to help turn the game around from 2-1 down to a 3-2 win in extra time. Fittingly, he scored the winner himself for his first goal at EDS level before clocking up another appearance in the final to collect his first medal in a City shirt.
Spanish youth international Pablo Maffeo was promoted to the EDS last summer a year early, after collecting a host of plaudits for his performances at right back with the u18s during his first year at the club.
Blessed with pace, an accurate cross and a wealth of attacking instincts, Pablo has made the majority of his appearances for the u21s this term at centre back, and adapted well to an unfamiliar role against opponents up to four years his senior. Virtually ever present in City’s back line this term, Pablo played every minute of the UEFA Youth League campaign in the Blues’ journey to the quarter finals and missed just two u21 league matches all season.
Signed from La Liga outfit Espanyol in 2013, Maffeo made his senior debut for the club’s B side aged just 15, and will be hoping for an early taste of first team action in a City shirt against Toronto or Houston this week.
Explosive midfielder Olivier Ntcham had a magnificent campaign for the EDS, marrying steel and skill for a series of dominant displays in the centre of the park both at home and abroad.
An ever-present during the UEFA Youth League campaign, the Frenchman scored once and clocked up three assists during his seven appearances in the competition to help the young Blues reach the last eight.
Possessing a powerful long range shot and quick feet, Olivier has shone as one of the senior members of the EDS and has been showing more and more of his fledgling talent as the term progressed – culminating in a superb goalscoring display against Southampton in the season’s penultimate game.
The youngster has captained France at u16 level and has since progressed through the age groups to the u19s. Ntcham, signed from Le Havre in 2012, lifted his first piece of silverware earlier this month when City EDS triumphed in the International Premier League Cup final.
Jose Angel Pozo
The only one of the tour’s EDS contingent with Premier League experience, Jose Angel Pozo proved how highly rated he is by the City coaches when he made his competitive senior debut against Sheffield Wednesday in the Capital One Cup earlier this term.
Replacing Yaya Toure after 64 minutes, the young Spaniard marked his first team bow with the sixth goal of a 7-0 win, and his all-round display prompted Manuel Pellegrini to hand him his Premier League debut before the close of the calendar year. Coming off the bench against Everton in December 2014, he made his first league start the following week against Leicester to cap a remarkable few months for the boy from Malaga.
Signed from Real Madrid in 2012, the Spanish youth international can do his damage from either wing or up top. Pozo scored three in six UEFA Youth League games and found himself on the bench in City’s Champions League home tie against Bayern Munich.