In their quest for the status of super club, Manchester City look like they’ll be taking their next logical step, by adopting a feeder club. The idea of a feeder club is somewhat frowned upon by football authorities, although there has been, and will continue to be, loopholes around any legal stumbling blocks. Some sort of ‘joint venture’ or ‘sponsoring of City’s development squad’ has been muted; regardless of what it is called, we know the club will perform two main duties for City.
1. Offer young players within the squad the chance to go out and gain experience, before they have made it into City’s first team.
2. Act as a stopping point for young talent around the world. Players from South America and Africa in particular, who are ineligible for a work-permit, can play in Europe before moving to City when all the necessary criteria has been met. The feeder club in return, gets the best talent playing for them for the selected amount of time.
It is a system that has been tried by a few clubs in the Premier League, but has had limited success. Certainly Man United have had a long tradition with Royal Antwerp, and has sent players on loan there far more than they have used the club to harbour international talent. At Chelsea, Alex spent three successful years at PSV as part of the deal that took him from Santos to Europe. It was here that he got a taste for football on the continent, not to mention Champions League experience. He is now a first-choice pick in Chelsea’s backline, and on that evidence, the system can work. But Alex is a rarity when it comes to feeder clubs producing top talent for the big clubs to hand-pick when they ripen.
Despite a modest track record, Man City appear to be serious about the venture. They believe that after the exuberance of the last couple of transfer windows, they now have a squad that they can selectively add to, rather than overhaul. Their emphasis has already turned to the finding, and nurturing, of young talent, in particular from overseas. They already have a good youth system, producing a respectable amount of PL talent, and have invested heavily into their academy: it all seems to be part of the grand plan.
How much City actually need a feeder club I think is questionable. It is almost as if the club are going through a box-ticking exercise to make sure they’ve got all their possible bases for domination covered. With the investment Sheikh Mansour has poured into the club, he can fully expect for them to pursue all possible avenues that may lead to success. Despite the club’s growth, they still don’t have the gravitas for young players that Barcelona, (or dare I say United?) possess, and understandably want to find ways to compete with the big trophy hoarders of the last decade.
Whether it works or not isn’t of massive concern to City. With the amount of players that have come into the club recently, this is a viable option to keep young, talented players happy to be with the club in some form. Let’s be honest, City can afford to try this system, and if they see genuine merit in proceeding with finding a suitable partner, then there is no reason not to progress. If they are serious about altering their transfer policy, and they believe this will help them do that, why wouldn’t they give it a go?
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