Pep Guardiola gesture in Man City celebrations points to their next star

For the first time in the day, Rico Lewis looked slightly uncertain.

The Manchester City teenager had just received his medal for winning the Premier League and was making his way over to the platform where a number of first-team stars were. And as much as Lewis may look like he has been playing in this team for years, he still very much feels like a kid who can’t actually believe he gets to kick a ball around with some of the best players in the world.

Lewis has been a revelation under Pep Guardiola this season, showing John Stones and others how to play the revolving full-back role that would steer them to 24 matches unbeaten in all competitions since February and playing a range of positions with tactical awareness beyond not only his years but many other players in the game.

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At the same time, it is a completely new environment he has been thrust into after being brought up through the age groups in City’s academy. A grounded lad from Bury who enjoys the quiet life, it is little wonder that sharing a stage with superstars did not feel naturally.

As he stood there waiting, suddenly he was engulfed by a giant hug from Guardiola. The City boss had been content to kiss his medal from the sidelines but on seeing Lewis approach as he did he made it his business to go and have a word with the youngest player in his squad.

Later on, the manager would pose for pictures with Lewis and his family on the pitch before the player slipped off to join fellow academy players Nico O’Reilly and Shea Charles; the pair had come onto the pitch to pose with Ilkay Gundogan with the Under-18 and Under-23 Premier League titles. This felt more like Lewis’s natural habitat, among teammates he had spent more time with.

As good an indicator that is for City, there is little chance of Guardiola letting the player out of his sight any time in the future. If picking him so often this season ahead of more experienced players didn’t show how much the manager rates him, the way he looked out for him during the trophy celebrations expressed how much he cares.

That is part of what makes Guardiola so special, and the manager also has a reputation for turning the best young prospects into exceptional young players. Lewis has exciting potential, and that looks even greater in the hands of someone who knows how to utilise that.

Sunday may have provided emotional farewells for some players at the Etihad, yet the sense is that Lewis is only just getting started under Guardiola.