Iheanacho dodges a City bullet

Wunmi Thomas on why it's not a bad thing that Kelechi Iheanacho's move to Manchester City might well be off.

I’m going to be blunt. I, for one, breathed a sigh of relief to hear Nigeria’s under-17 World Cup hero Kelechi Iheanacho’s potential move to Manchester City might be off.

I hope the move is as dead as the proverbial dodo. Iheanacho would be joining a club about 10 years too late. City are so rich now they tread an unenviable line between wanting to develop their own talent in order to satisfy the requirements of financial fair play and the need to continuously win things.

Chelsea are a great parallel study to City. They’ve thrown more than one fortune at trying to build a youth structure. There have been youngsters recruited at great cost from all over the world and expensive talent to guide them.

Frank Arnesen was hired at great cost from Tottenham, a fee later disclosed to be £5 million but widely reported to be closer to £8 million, and a commensurate salary to match. Arnesen’s role was that of head talent scout, in charge of uncovering footballing talents.

He played a key role in bringing the likes of Salomon Kalou, Florent Malouda and John Obi Mikel to Chelsea. But, this hardly constituted a youth policy even though Mikel was a teenager. Chelsea still pursued expensive purchases of established international players rather than unearthing and developing young talent as hoped.

Recently it’s been reported that José Mourinho has blamed Arnesen for the lack of talented youth in the Chelsea ranks.

Since the end of his five year tenure at the Bridge Arnesen has claimed there was no chance for young players to make their mark on the first team during his time at the club.

Arnesen feels his task was complicated by Chelsea’s pursuit of instant success.

Speaking to the London Evening Standard, Arnesen said: 'At Chelsea, we had fantastic talent, we built up marvellous players, but they needed to be given a chance and they never were. The pressure is so big.

'Managers in England are going out and buying players, the level is high, and it is difficult for them because if they lose two or three games, they are gone.'

Arnesen, however, insists his time at Chelsea was well spent.

He added: 'I am very proud of what I did. I did a fantastic job. I made the club a lot of money. I bought players for small amounts and they were sold for a lot of money.

'I am talking about players like [Daniel] Sturridge, [Fabio] Borini and [Miroslav] Stoch - they ended up being sold for about £30million and that pays for the academy.

'I am happy with many of the players I signed for Chelsea; just think, Borini and Sturridge are now at Liverpool, Stoch scored the FIFA goal of the year for Fenerbahce, Nemanja Matic is the star man at Benfica.

'Then you have Jeffrey Bruma [Hamburg], Gael Kakuta and Patrick van Aanholt [both Vitesse Arnhem], who are doing very well on loan. 'There is Josh McEachran and Ryan Bertrand, too. Some don’t get the chance for the Chelsea first team now, but they will.'

That’s the Chelsea story. I don’t think City that different right now, and if they are trying to be I for one don’t want one of our brightest young talents to be a pioneer for a change in policy.

City did have a more prolific youth policy when they had no real money. The likes of Michael Johnson, Stephen Ireland, Micah Richards and Daniel Sturridge all came through around 2005 and 2006.

If Porto are an option then they will be a better one for player development. If he really wants to go to the English Premier League then a team like Southampton where he would be given a real chance to play first team football are a better fit.

This is probably a good place to say that I know all the arguments in favour of joining a big team. It’s a short career and you have to make money while you can. How much you benefit from training with all those international class players.

I just think you might become a better player lining up every week against those players, showing what you can do and then earning a big money move to join them.

The stories surrounding the potential collapse of the City move suggest the Iheanacho family want their jam today, not tomorrow but City want to delay any financial rewards. Sounds like the City deal was all about money and now there isn’t any immediately on the table Manchester is not as sweet a destination.

I wonder if Stephen Keshi pointed out a few home truths to him when giving the youngster his blessing to leave the Eagles CHAN preparation camp. Perhaps he did advise him not to go and Iheanacho’s mind was so set on City it was impossible to keep him.

The bottom line is Iheanacho is part of a talented, winning under-17 squad who for once used their real ages. It’s hard enough to get these players to make the breakthrough into the senior ranks without choosing the club to help that development.


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