For every Phil Foden or Rico Lewis that rise through the ranks to make it in Pep Guardiola’s first team, there are any number of talented Manchester City starlets that are forced to forge their path elsewhere. And City’s loss looks to be Newcastle’s gain when it comes to 18-year-old rising star Alfie Harrison.
During Pep Guardiola’s time at the club, City have made over £400million by selling off academy players on the fringes of the first-team squad.
Almost all of those prospects have gone on to enjoy respectable enough careers elsewhere, but a select few – Jadon Sancho, Romeo Lavia and now Cole Palmer – went on to establish themselves among European football’s hottest properties.
Having invested millions into the club infrastructure, a state-of-the-art training complex and recruiting some of the best youth coaches out there, City are now routinely producing some of the most talented kids in the country.
It’s the definition of a first-world problem, but the issue with having such an all-conquering, treble-winning behemoth of a first-team means that opportunities for youngsters are few and far between. Kalvin Phillips was signed for £45million and couldn’t find gametime – what chance does an 18-year-old have?
According to The Athletic, Harrison’s imminent move to Newcastle is “centered on Harrison having a clear path towards first-team action”. The Magpies’ head of youth recruitment Paul Midgley joined from City in 2022 and evidently knows a thing or two about his former club’s most promising youngsters.
“I think we’ve gelled quickly,” Harrison told Manchester City’s official website after catching the eye with a hat-trick against Blackburn Rovers last term.
“We all work well together as a team, we work for each other day in day out in training and we take that with us into the games.
“I want to score more goals and make more assists when I get my chance and effect games.”
And this season he’s delivered on his word. After a respectable tally of six goals and four assists in his debut 2022-23 season with City’s Under-18s, Harrison has taken his game to wildly prolific new heights this year.
Harrison set the tone for his exceptional 2023-24 in his first appearance of the campaign, notching twice in a 6-0 mauling of Blackburn. Their kids must’ve been sick of the sight of him after his hat-trick last season.
Manchester City’s 18-year-old Alfie Harrison – City have one of the most exciting attacking midfielders in England 🏴💫 🔵 #MCFC
So far this season
10 Goals ⚽️
6 Assists 🔌 pic.twitter.com/oLwLPUzRHt
— TheSecretScout (@TheSecretScout_) January 7, 2024
The 18-year-old averages a goal a game and a goal or an assist every 72 minutes for City’s Under-18s this year. Insane.
He even made the step-up to make his debut for the club’s Under-21s in the Premier League 2 shortly before Christmas – albeit off the bench for a 10-man side that lost 6-0 to Norwich.
While a midfielder by trade, young Harrison has drawn comparisons to Erling Haaland – in part, inevitably, due to that blonde ponytail. But there’s also something about his eye for goal, dead-eyed finishing ability and instinctive movement to find himself unmarked in dangerous areas.
You imagine Harrison has looked at fellow Manchester lad Palmer tearing it up for Chelsea, looked at the way Eddie Howe hasn’t been afraid to lean on academy kids like Elliot Anderson and Lewis Miley, and envisioned himself making a name for himself in the Premier League sooner rather than later.
In all likelihood Harrison will continue his development in Newcastle’s youth ranks for the foreseeable future, but he looks a talent of immense potential. He’ll surely back himself to play a major part of what’s building on Tyneside.
By Nestor Watach