In a damning indictment of the Elite Development Squad expensively run by Patrick Vieira, Manchester City are closing in on the capture of Fulham teenager Patrick Roberts, with various media sources reporting that an £8m bid has been lodged with the Championship outfit.
Earlier this week, the Daily Mail reported that 18-year-old Roberts, who made his Premier League debut in a 5-0 Fulham loss at the Etihad 15 months ago, has refused to sign a new contract at Craven Cottage, with his current deal set to expire next summer.
Manchester United and Chelsea are also thought to be watching developments in west London closely, but City may have stolen a march on their top-flight rivals, with a deal for Roberts reportedly some way down the road.
The two-time Premier League champions need English players to fill their home-grown quota following Frank Lampard, James Milner and Micah Richards’ departures this summer, and £25m and £35m bids for Liverpool troublemaker Raheem Sterling have gone in, according to the BBC.
Aston Villa midfielder Fabian Delph, who has established himself in Roy Hodgson’s Three Lions squad since debuting after the last World Cup, is also thought to be on Citizens gaffer Manuel Pellegrini’s raider, although reports that the Chilean sees him as an alternative to Juventus’ Paul Pogba have prompted no little mirth.
Shelling out £8m or more for Roberts seems a worrying sign though, as the diminutive forward has started just three matches in all competitions for Fulham’s senior side, without yet managing a goal.
We’ve been banging on about the rise of ‘professional Englishman’ for some time, with the likes of Everton duo Ross Barkley and John Stones tipped for futures carrying out roles similar to those held by Milner, Lampard, Scott Sinclair, Joleon Lescott and others at City; that is, get used to the bench, come on for the odd run-around, but don’t expect regular starts.
The fact that Etihad head honcho Khaldoon Al Mubarak is now sanctioning big-money moves for players who surely won’t get near the first team for some time doesn’t bode well for former Arsenal and France midfielder Vieira.
The 38-year-old has been involved with training and youth development at City for just under four years, taking over the reserve team and Elite Development Squad in May 2013.
Only one academy graduate, Spanish forward Jose Angel Pozo, has made the step up to the seniors, and the Malaga native, who City reportedly paid Real Madrid £2.4m for as a 16-year-old, hardly set the heather alight in three Premier League appearances last term, one of which was a start.