Manchester City have spent hundreds of millions of pounds to build their stellar squad over the last decade and while they are still able to splash out big sums to sign Ruben Dias (£65m) and possibly even Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish (£100m), recently the club have been turning to South America for their next generation.
The City Football Group (CFG) own a number of feeder clubs across the world including: Girona (Spain), Lommel SK (Belgium), Troyes AC (France), New York City FC (USA), Yokohama F. Marinos (Japan), Melbourne City (Australia), Mumbai City FC (India), Sichuan Jiuniu (China). While Uruguay’s Montevideo City Torque are the only representative from South America, clearly City’s scouts are working overtime on the continent.
In the 2020 summer window, Man City signed Argentine striker Nahuel Bustos from Club Atletico Talleres for around €7m and immediately loaned him out to Girona, Brazilian right-back Yan Couto was signed from Coritba for €6m and sent to Girona as well, while Gremio midfielder Diego Rosa arrived for a similar fee and went out on loan to Lommel. Fluminense’s 18-year-old midfielder Metinho will also join the club next year and move on loan to one of these European clubs.
City’s young South American stars have yet to make an impact on Pep Guardiola’s first team, but that could change with the latest arrivals. Here’s a look at what they will bring.
Sarmiento made his debut for Estudiantes at just 16 years of age in 2019 and even found himself in the starting line-up during the short “restart” phase of the Argentine league last year, but was used more sparingly after his reported €5m move to Manchester City was announced in April.
As a small Argentine forward, comparisons to Lionel Messi have been made and he is another “inverted winger” who prefers to receive the ball on the right with a view to advancing infield onto his left foot. Kayky is a more refined footballer at this point of his career, while Sarmiento still sports elements of the raw street footballer in his game. Never afraid to take on an opponent, even when the odds are against him, his busy, daring and intense style of play makes him particularly exciting to watch.
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However, he has shown that he needs to learn when to release the ball and his decision-making is one of the first things the City coaching staff will want to work on. At 5-foot-5, the Argentine doesn’t command much aerial prowess either and, at 18, is still at the stage of his development where he can only influence a game when he is on the ball a lot.
In addition to his one-vs-one abilities, he does have the vision to set up a teammate when he finds the right angle (especially when drifting in from the right) and also has a decent defensive work rate — though, at this point, his willingness to track back is higher than his efficiency in recovering the ball. That same determination also sees him escape challenges from much taller and more physically developed opponents, but Sarmiento does still need a fair bit of polishing at academy level before he’s ready for regular Premier League football.
Kayky (18, Attacking Midfielder/Winger, Brazil)
A €10m deal for the highly rated Fluminense prospect was wrapped up in April, though he will not officially move to Manchester before the turn of the year (i.e. at the end of the domestic season in Brazil.)
Having just turned 18, it seems sensible for Kayky to keep playing first-team football in Brazil for another six months. In fact, there’s still some way for him to go to become a regular for Fluminense and, despite starting every game in the Copa Libertadores, he only registered his first league start in late June (although he has featured in the Carioca State championship.) That said, he has progressed quickly and when entering the pitch he does have an immediate impact.
Similar in style to Douglas Costa, Kayky’s most striking attributes are his explosive pace and dynamic ball-carrying abilities, while his fine dribbling skills help to create chances in the attacking third. Still a relatively modest height at 5-foot-7, he’s equipped with excellent balance and can take a tough challenge without losing his footing. He has also got clever off-the-ball movement, often choosing the right spaces in which to make intelligent runs.
While the 18-year-old has already created a lot of buzz, his end product can still improve. Though he’ll probably end up playing in a variety of positions off the striker, he prefers starting on the right in order to cut infield onto his favoured left foot and while City will want him to work on his weaker foot, he is an instinctive footballer who doesn’t hesitate to make a quick decision.
Aguilar appeared on the radar of many scouts during the South American Under-17 Championship in 2019 — not just for his well-balanced defensive and attacking game, but also his impressive upper body strength for one so young — and City moved quickly to complete his €1.5m signing.
While plenty of teenagers from Brazil and Argentina have been picked up by Premier League teams in the past, a Peruvian joining a top club at the age of 18 is a rare occurrence. City have recently sent Aguilar to second division Belgian side Lommel on loan and it will be intriguing to see if he will eventually follow in the footsteps of his countryman, Nolberto Solano, to become a fully-fledged Premier League right-back.
The pacey Aguilar is comfortable on the ball and a good crosser, while he’s also able to find space in the final third when attacking — either looking for combinations to advance into the penalty area or looking for a back-post delivery.
At the rate Man City are signing South American prospects, there’s no guarantee that being drafted into the CFG system will result in a career playing for the Premier League champions, or whether a future of being shuffled between the various feeder clubs awaits. In Aguilar’s case, continuing his development for a year or two in Belgium before potentially moving on to one of the top leagues is a logical way to start his European adventure, but City will be keeping a close eye on how all their new arrivals fare.