Manchester City privately acknowledge that there remains a huge gulf between their academy system and that of Barcelona, and that their recruitment and development of Under-19s must improve dramatically if they are to sustain a position at the top of the game.
City's football administrator, Brian Marwood, watched the club's Elite Development Squad (EDS) side lose 4-1 in Barcelona in the NextGen European Under-19s tournament last night, only too aware that the difference in standard at that level is still vast. City went into the match as the only club in the 16-strong NextGen competition yet to register a point.
City have been determined to give young players experience on the continental stage and develop the technical passing game which Marwood sees as the club's future, rather than seek victories at all cost. Denis Suarez, Abdul Razak and Karim Rekik look like future talents for the City first-team, though the club need more. All three players are potentially integral to City's attempt to remain as competitive in Europe five years from now in an era of Financial Fair Play as they are now. They are a win away from the Champions League knockout stage after the 3-0 victory in Villarreal on Wednesday night.
Yaya Touré, who had never scored twice in one game before his two fine finishes in El Madrigal, warned afterwards that there is a gulf between City and the Catalans. "Of course there is a difference," he said. "Barcelona has been a big club for a long time. If Manchester City want to be a club like that we have to win some Premier Leagues, maybe some Champions Leagues to be like them. They are the top team in the world. We still have a long way to go. We have to continue to improve."
Striker Luca Scapuzzi and the manager's son, Andreas Mancini, have been sent out on loan to Oldham Athletic.
Club take advice on avoiding Napoli 'Ultras'
Manchester City will seek advice from Liverpool, Manchester United and Bayern Munich as they attempt to prevent serious injury to fans attending the vital Champions League tie at Napoli next month.
Liverpool supporters were hunted down by Napoli fans and three hospitalised with stab wounds ahead of their Europa League tie at Stadio San Paolo last season and six Bayern fans were also stabbed as the sides met in Italy last month.
With up to 3,000 City fans intending to travel for a game that could see Roberto Mancini's side qualify for the Champions League group stage on 22 November, City intend to publish detailed advice for fans to keep them from coming to serious harm from the Serie A side's Ultras.
City's security staff have already made a reconnaissance mission and have also spoken to United, in an attempt to draw on their vast experience in difficult Italian locations, especially Rome. A central fan embassy, providing supporters with a contact point, is likely to form a part of preparations for Napoli, as will detailed approach routes to and from the stadium for supporters. A Football Association observer will also be on the trip, as a matter of routine.
Liverpool's trip last year ended with one fan in hospital with injuries to his buttocks and thighs, and another with wounds to his head. The men were part of a group that had been heading back to their hotel on the night before the game when they realised they were being followed. A chase ensued but they were caught at the corner of Garibaldi Street and Piazza Garibaldi, areas which supporters will be encouraged to be wary of. The fans, attacked with sticks and iron bars, tried to take refuge in a hotel but its door was closed.
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