(Reuters) – Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola says that Spanish teenager Eric Garcia is close to challenging for regular first-team action after setting a benchmark for other young prospects with a near-faultless display against Southampton in midweek.
Goals from Sergio Aguero and Nicolas Otamendi helped City to a convincing 3-1 victory over Southampton on Tuesday, but the home fans also gained a glimpse of the future at the Etihad Stadium.
With City suffering an injury crisis in defensive areas, Barcelona academy product Garcia showed great composure on the ball in an assured display alongside Otamendi at centre back.
When asked which City youngsters were good enough to have an impact in the Premier League, Guardiola told reporters: “Right now, Phil Foden.
“Eric Garcia is close because, every time, he plays at an incredibly high level. He doesn’t make mistakes. The other young players have to work and work and work.”
Garcia made his third appearance for the club on Tuesday, while local academy product Tommy Doyle made his debut in a holding midfield role behind Bernardo Silva and Foden.
Doyle continued a proud City family dynasty as he followed the footsteps of his grandfathers Glyn Pardoe and the late Mike Doyle – team mates in the City side that won the First Division title in 1968, the FA Cup in 1969 and the League Cup in 1970.
Fernandinho returns from suspension for Saturday’s league clash against Southampton, but 18-year-old Doyle will be an option when City approach a busy run of fixtures next month.
“Of course it’s important to have a relationship with local players; with our people, our fans, people who were born here,” Guardiola said. “But this happens because of the quality of the players, not because you were born here you are going to play for Man City or Man United.
“He is still 18, so young, and his position right now is in the second team, to play as much as possible there and be ready like he was in the last game.”
(Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; Editing by David Goodman)