Pep Guardiola seat was plumped up nicely for his arrival at Manchester City three summers ago.
Indeed, the Catalan’s appointment at the Etihad Stadium was a long time in the making. City had spent a number of years ensuring everything was in place to lure Guardiola. They wanted to position themselves as the perfect club for the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss because they saw him as the perfect manager for them.
He ticked every box. Guardiola is a coach renowned for his attractive, dynamic style of play and having previously won the Champions League twice before Man City targeted the 48-year-old as the man to help them break through the continental glass ceiling.
Underpinning this all was the prospect of what Guardiola could do for the club’s long-term future.
At Barcelona, Guardiola helped bring through a golden generation of young talent, earning him a reputation as a promoter of youth. For Manchester City, who had just spent £200m on a new training facility and academy, this was highly attractive.
“We are building a structure for the future, not just a team of all-stars,” read the words of club owner Sheikh Mansour on the wall of the City Football Academy and Guardiola is a key part of that structure.
However, three years have now passed since Guardiola’s appointment and not one academy graduate has established himself in the City first team.
It’s not like there hasn’t been opportunity for Guardiola to pluck from his youth ranks either.
Jadon Sancho, arguably the most exciting teenager in Europe right now, was on City’s books just two years ago, but he felt the need to move to Borussia Dortmund to find first-team football.
Brahim Diaz left for Real Madrid in January having had his route into the first team blocked at the Etihad Stadium. Just four months later, he’d made more appearances for Real Madrid than he had in three years for Man City.
Then there’s Phil Foden, England’s once-in-a-generation talent who has been afforded just 10 minutes of league football this season.
“I’m pretty sure they are motivated to play in the first team, to play alongside incredible players in competitions and semi-finals. Of course, they are going to be motivated,” Guardiola explained when asked whether he felt City’s young players were good enough for his squad.
“But they have to know how difficult it is to achieve [a place in] the first squad and the first team, not just in Man City but everywhere. We don’t give presents because they are nice or something special. It depends on them.”
But, City’s young players also require a show of faith from Guardiola to get ahead and now is the perfect opportunity for the Catalan to make good on his reputation. The Premier League champions are in the midst of an injury crisis, with Aymeric Laporte sidelined until the new year and John Stones out for five to six weeks.
This leaves Guardiola with just two centre backs to pick from – Nicolas Otamendi and Eric Garcia.
Not many will be familiar with Garcia, but the 18-year-old is a highly rated central defender with a La Masia background. If he isn’t given a run in the City first team now, with the club desperately scrambling for options at the back, it’s unlikely he ever will.
Indeed, if 34-year-old Fernandinho is drafted in alongside Otamendi or Kyle Walker is shifted to the right side of a back three, as has been suggested, then Guardiola’s record on youth will be tainted even further.
Far from being the promoter of youth City believed him to be when he was hired, Guardiola has so far only been a hindrance to the club’s young players.