City Football Academy; A Pointless Investment?

Amos Murphy 

There are very few academics in world football which rival Manchester City’s CFA; the multi-million pound facilities are the epitome of state of the art and it is placed in the beating heart of the Manchester sides blueprints for world domination, however thus far, aside from one or two credible graduates, the most expensive tourist attraction in the North West of England has little to show for itself.

Expectations couldn’t have been higher when the plans were announced to build the most technologically advanced footballing production line in the world – a complex which would make Barcelona’s La Masia look mediocre in comparison. The plan was to pioneer the ways in which home grown talent was formed, and then nurtured into the next generation of world beaters, yet the Manchester City starlets are creeping further and further away from the first team starting eleven.

Many wonder-kids have captured the imagination of city fans: Ronny Lopes and Brandon Barker examples of those who showed numerous signs of pushing onto bigger and better things, but just as quickly as the belief was encapsulated, it was lost – a multitude of failed and non-beneficial loan spells has seen numerous rough but promising gems fade away into becoming burnt out pieces of coal.

In the time since the CFA was built, the total amount spent on players by Manchester City is just shy of £550 million (not yet including the money spent on players in the remainder of this transfer window), and in that same time the only credible success story coming out of the same academy is Kelechi Iheanacho, and even he was brought in from a Nigerian football academy. Wasn’t the sole purpose of this project to stunt the amount of money spent on foreign players, by doing so opening a previously shut door for homegrown talent to be able to flourish at the highest level?

Now, obviously ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’ and anything truly successful takes time to be put into place in order for it to have the greatest impact possible, yet in this cutthroat footballing environment where results are demanded immediately, there is simply not enough time for anyone looking to carry out such a project, leading to this vicious paradox – players need sufficient time to gain the necessary experience, but just one below par season and a manager usually loses their job, so a near perfect record of results is constantly required – there is no place for such high stake gambling in football anymore, and it is the young, homegrown talent suffering the most.

Use the current City managers time at Barcelona as a case study for example: the sole reason as to why Guardiola was able to introduce the likes of Xavi, Inesta and Pedro, lay firmly with the fact that he had the luxury of spending the time enhancing their development in the Barcelona B side. Now I am sure Guardiola would love the opportunity to develop the likes of Aleix Garcia and Tosin Adarabioyo in a similar fashion, but the outright demand for immediate success is too much of a burden on a manager for them to afford such precious time to academy products.

However, meththods which have been put into place in order to tackle this problem have coincided with the rapid expansion of the City Football Group; stretching out to all corners of the globe, its purpose is to build a network of reliable clubs in various different continents. Despite this imperialistic attempt at creating some sort of footballing dynasty, having linked clubs which ply their trade in the worlds best leagues allows these young prodigies to gain credible and valuable first-team experience.

This project attempts to put right the problems, which Chelsea for example, have faced when dealing with vast amounts of loanees; it completely reinvents the way in which the loan system works, as the clubs taking these players on loan not only get a player which drastically improves their squad, but due to the connections between the clubs the player is granted adequate attention and time to develop, instead of being discarded at a club which had no interest in their future development.

Take Patrick Viera for example: a man who has clear ambitions to go on and have just as good a managerial career as his playing one, has been given a platform to gain the necessary experience at a football club directly linked with Manchester City, which in turn receives the best young talent their parent club has to offer. On paper this may appear as a capitalistic, monopoly style approach to proceedings from the executives in the City boardroom, yet the best interests of all parties involved are kept – players, coaches and the clubs themselves all benefit from this model, with time being the only telling factor determining its overall success. 

Gone are the days when a scout would find the next best thing playing on a groggy pitch in the freezing cold on a Sunday morning; football has transformed into a complicated and complex business where the minute details can massively influence long term success; the CFA theoretically should provide this success in droves, it is at the hands of its possessor whether its potential is matched.

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