Pep Guardiola hints at first-team promotions for Man City youngsters

Pep Guardiola says that “two or three” of Manchester City ‘s talented under-23 squad will take the step up to regular first team training next season.

The Blues boss revealed last month that 18-year-old striker Liam Delap – who smashed the Premier League 2 goalscoring record with 24 as the young Blues took the title – will be one of those making the move to train with his squad.

Delap has already been involved with the first team this season, scoring a spectacular goal on his debut against Crystal Palace in the Carabao Cup and then making his first Premier League start three days later in the 5-2 defeat by Leicester.

But Guardiola praised the work of Under-23 coach Enzo Maresca, who only took the reins in August and led his charges to the title in his first season.

He has overseen the development of Delap, and other bright prospects like Wythenshawe’s Cole Palmer, midfielders James McAtee and Tommy Doyle, defender Luke Mbete, and Felix Nmecha, who have all been name-checked by Guardiola this season.

Guardiola tipped Maresca to follow the path of Mikel Arteta, and go on to become a top manager at senior level.

Asked if there would be other players apart from Delap making the step up, Guardiola replied that was possible, but when asked for names, he was reticent, adding that with transfer activity still uncertain, and with decisions to be made on which players would benefit from loan moves, it was not the time to say.

“It doesn’t help the young boys to go to the media, it can be more confusing than positive,” he said. “We are delighted with what Maresca has done. He’ll be an extraordinary manager in the future – like I felt it with Arteta.

“He’s developed many young players that will help us. It will depend on how many stay and how many leave. Who we sign.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – APRIL 30: Liam Delap of Manchester City lifts the Premier League 2 trophy following the Premier League 2 match between Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur at Manchester City Football Academy on April 30, 2021 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images)

“It depends on that. There are two or three who will be regularly training with us and maybe part of the squad.”

Palmer would seem to be at the head of the queue to move up after a stellar season in Premier League 2. The highly-skilled attacking player finished as the league’s second top scorer with 13, behind Delap, and he also added seven assists.

But McAtee topped the assists list for the entire league with 12, closely followed by Doyle, on 11, and Romeo Lavia has been hugely impressive as a holding midfielder.

Those two also have to be in the reckoning when it comes to working out which young players will advance.