In April 2017, Manchester City and Chelsea’s Under-18s faced off in the FA Youth Cup final. City drew 1-1 in the first leg in Manchester before suffering a humbling 5-1 defeat in the second leg at Stamford Bridge.
That was an era in which Chelsea dominated the Youth Cup – their fourth of five successive trophy wins, and Jody Morris’ young team featured the likes of Reece James, Marc Guehi, Mason Mount and Callum Hudson-Odoi. But looking back, the City team was packed full of prodigious talent too.
We’ve taken a look back at Lee Carsley’s team – he named the same XI for both legs – and checked in on how they’re getting on six years later.
GK: Arijanet Muric
Having joined City’s youth set-up as a teenager from Swiss club Grasshopper back in 2015, Muric spent eight years on the club’s books and made five first-team appearances – all in the 2018-19 League Cup-winning campaign.
The 24-year-old goalkeeper has already earned 32 caps for Kosovo and, after a series of loans away, joined Vincent Kompany’s Burnley in 2022.
He was a near ever-present in their Championship promotion-winning campaign, but has since lost his place to fellow City academy graduate James Trafford.
RB: Demeaco Duhaney
Born in Fallowfield, Duhaney joined City’s academy at the age of five and was a regular in the youth set-up without ever breaking through into first-team contention.
He left for Huddersfield in 2019, joined Stoke City two years later, and has since signed for Turkish Super Lig outfit Istanbulspor after being loaned out there by the Potters last term.
CB: Sadou Diallo
Born in Guinea but raised in Rotherham, Diallo left boyhood club City for Wolves in 2019 but was released two years later after failing to make a first-team appearance.
He’s adapted to become more of a defensive midfielder over time and was a peripheral part of Forest Green’s promotion-winning side from League Two in 2021-22.
Diallo is now turning out regularly for League Of Ireland club Derry City.
CB: Ed Francis
Francis captained City in the FA Youth Cup final in the absence of injured regular Joel Latibeaudiere.
He’s only 23 but with a nomadic career that already includes stints with eight different clubs in three different countries. He’s currently at Gateshead.
LB: Tyreke Wilson
Born in Dublin, Wilson has been playing for League Of Ireland clubs since 2020 and is currently turning out for Shelbourne.
The defender spent six years on Man City’s books between 2013 and 2019.
CM: Jacob Davenport
The young midfielder was loaned out to Burton Albion for half a season before signing with Blackburn Rovers in 2018.
He made 34 Championship appearances across four years with the club but never quite nailed down a regular first-team place. Davenport has since moved down the pyramid in stints with Lincoln City and Stockport County and in the summer he joined Morecambe.
— EFL (@EFL) February 23, 2018
CM: Matt Smith
Another academy graduate who never quite made it to Guardiola’s senior set-up, Smith has forged his path elsewhere.
City loaned the midfielder out to FC Twente, QPR, Charlton, Doncaster and Hull before finally selling him to MK Dons for an undisclosed fee in 2022.
He spent 18 months at the Stadium MK before signing for Scottish Premiership side St Johnstone in the summer.
CF: Phil Foden
As most of this lot show, it takes something truly special for an academy graduate to break through and make it at Guardiola’s expertly-coached team of superstars.
“Phil Foden agrees to sit on the bench for six years,” read Sun journalist Neil Custis’ infamous tweet when the rising star signed a contract at the Etihad in December 2018.
And in 2023? Foden has notched 60 goals and 44 assists in 223 appearances for City, won five Premier League titles, two FA Cups, four League Cups and the Champions League. He’s also played for England 25 times.
Phil Foden: “It’s time to forget about last season. Even though it was great, it’s time to try to win all those trophies again.” pic.twitter.com/4DqZuRF0DL
— City Report (@cityreport_) July 27, 2023
FWR: Brahim Diaz
“This is the happiest day of my life, I couldn’t have a better gift for Three Kings Day [6 January in Spain],” the highly-rated Spaniard told reporters after signing for Real Madrid in 2019.
“I had three options after deciding to leave Manchester City. One, play at Real Madrid, two, play at Real Madrid and three, play at Real Madrid. It was impossible to go anywhere else.
He only ever made 15 appearances for City – five in the Premier League – but had shown enough in the youth set-up to be deemed worthy of a £15.5million transfer fee.
Diaz is now back at the Bernabeu after no fewer than three seasons out on loan at AC Milan. He’s received one cap for Spain, back in 2021, and is reportedly considering switching allegiance to Morocco.
ST: Lukas Nmecha
Both Lukas and his sibling Felix showed lots of promise during their time in City’s youth set-up – but they had to move elsewhere to fulfil it.
After four loans away, Lukas joined Wolfsburg in 2021 and is now a Bundesliga regular with seven caps for Germany. Younger brother Felix joined Borussia Dortmund from Wolfsburg this summer after making his international debut in the spring.
🏴2017: Lukas Nmecha scores the winning goal for England in Euro U-19 final against Portugal
🇩🇪2021: Lukas Nmecha scores the winning goal for Germany in Euro U-21 final against Portugal pic.twitter.com/8E6a2BM2qB
— Football Talent Scout – Jacek Kulig (@FTalentScout) June 7, 2021
FWL: Jadon Sancho
The England winger established himself as one of the most exciting talents in Europe during his time at Borussia Dortmund.
He looked destined to be the one that got away, but his travails in the red half of Manchester mean that few at City look back with regret at letting him go now.
Sancho’s big-money move to Old Trafford even earned City a healthy sell-on fee.