Summer business has been brisk once again in the farm shop.

With Carlos Borges to Ajax, Shea Charles to and James Trafford to — three talented teenagers sold for fees totalling more than £50million — it has been a feature of the market for the second successive year.

City’s academy graduates command huge fees.Sometimes without kicking a ball at senior level.

to sign 19-year-old winger Borges for £17m despite the fact he had never appeared in Pep Guardiola’s team, nor out on loan.

The same for three of four teenagers sold to Southampton last year.Midfielder Charles, who followed to the south coast in a deal worth up to £15m, has half an hour of senior experience, on the final day of last season.

James Trafford joined Burnley for £15m despite never playing a senior game above the third tier

Carlos Borges (left) and Shea Charles (right) have also left Man City for large fees despite lacking experience at the highest level

Saints, who also signed teenage goalkeeper Josh McNamara from the Etihad Stadium this summer, are central to this trend. Committed to youth, with an exciting crop of their own coming through, they have gone to extreme lengths to tap into the secrets of Manchester City’s success.

They have lured key recruitment staff from the City academy and a cluster of players.

Of Romeo Lavia, Gavin Bazunu, Sam Edozie and Juan Larios, signed last summer at a cost of about £35m, only goalkeeper Bazunu came with experience of senior football.

It certainly did not produce instant results.Relegation, presumably, was not in the plan, but from a business angle, perhaps the case of Lavia is all the justification required.

One good season in a failing team and his value has increased five-fold. Chelsea and Liverpool are fighting it out for the 19-year-old Belgian.

James Ward-Prowse, an England international with 349 Premier League games, 49 goals and proven quality, is considerably cheaper.He scored nine to Lavia’s one goal, last season. At 28, however, Ward-Prowse lacks the promise of youth and the appeal of a sell-on fee.

Those in desperate pursuit of Manchester City at the top of the Premier League showed no interest in 30-year-old Harry Kane at £100m despite his guaranteed goals, yet they have all been prepared to spend more on very good midfielders, who don’t score goals but fit the age profile. 

This is the logic as defined by financial fair play.Youth is the most precious commodity in a distorted marketplace. Even more desirable if complete with City’s stamp of excellence.

Romeo Lavia will command a much higher fee than his more experienced teammate James Ward-Prowse because he carries the promise of future sell-on fees

The best of Man City’s youth talent, such as Phil Foden and Rico Lewis, stay at the club under Pep Guardiola’s watchful eye

Any young footballer identified by City’s global network of scouts and analysts, then finished inside an academy playing the Guardiola way, carries some kind of insurance against loss of value.

For the first decade of the Premier League era, Arsenal and Manchester United dominated this landscape.Then Chelsea shook it up when realising they could ease pressure from FFP by stockpiling players and generating income by loaning or selling them on to offset massive spending under Roman Abramovich.

This policy has moved into another realm since the Clearlake takeover, with a lavish, unprecedented investment in young footballers.

City tend to be more discreet.They recruited Lavia, Bazunu, Edozie and Larios at 16. Lavia from Anderlecht, Bazunu from Shamrock Rovers, Edozie from Millwall and Larios from Barcelona. Borges joined from Sporting in Portugal in 2014.

They also manage to maintain a strong local identity.The youth ranks are rich with Manchester lads and Guardiola keeps the best of them close, preferring to nurture them himself than trust their development to others.

In the first-team squad this season are Phil Foden, Rico Lewis, Cole Palmer and James McAtee.

Douglas Luiz is one of many Premier League stars who have passed through City’s youth ranks

Glance through the Premier League to find Jadon Sancho at Manchester United, Douglas Luiz at Aston Villa, Pedro Porro at Tottenham, David Brooks at Bournemouth and Tosin Adarabioyo at Fulham, who all spent a stage of their development at City.All provide sell-on fees and buy-back opportunities.

Issa Kabore is on loan at Luton and there are countless others cast down through the EFL pyramid. Taylor Harwood-Bellis helped Burnley to the Championship title last season. McAtee and Tommy Doyle helped Sheffield United win promotion to the Premier League.

Then consider the other dozen clubs in the City football group.They are slick and well run, always it seems ahead of the curve. Most admirable were it not for the disturbing edge to this international trade in teenagers in a quest for world domination by the wealthiest clubs.

With each transfer window that passes, their power and influence becomes more significant.


Sidibe’s Stoke breakthrough bittersweet for axed coaches

16-year-old Sol Sidibe is emerging as an exciting prospect at Stoke and has broken into the first team

Sol Sidibe’s emergence at Stoke City has caught the eye.The 16-year-old son of former striker Mamady Sidibe, who works at the club in an ambassadorial role, has broken into the first team after impressing boss Alex Neil.

Sidibe junior, who started in the Carabao Cup last week and has come on as a sub in two Championship games, has been in the youth system for some time.The irony of his breakthrough will chime with the academy coaches dismissed by Stoke at the end of last season in the name of a fresh start. 


When fond farewells are more than just a friendly gesture  

A friendly against Shakhtar Donetsk will go down in the records as Harry Kane’s final appearance in a Tottenham shirt and, although he scored four goals, his farewell could not match Andriy Pyatov’s for pure theatre.

Shakhtar’s retiring goalkeeper bowed out in the 16th minute at Spurs as a nod to his 16 years of service.The game paused as team-mates formed a guard of honour for his exit, followed by a trophy presentation, handshakes, backslaps and a brief photo shoot. It was a fine gesture, enabling 39-year-old Pyatov to close his career before a crowd of 50,000, rather than in the empty stadiums of Ukraine’s wartime football.

Whether privy to the plan or not, Tottenham’s players loitered politely for the game to restart, reminding me of a story relayed through the generations from Sheffield United’s tour of South America in 1967.

Harry Kane made a disappointing debut for Bayern Munich on Saturday night after leaving Tottenham a day earlier

It means his final Spurs appearance was a friendly against Shakhtar Donetsk, where opposing keeper Andriy Pyatov was given a spectacular send-off

The Blades visited Club Everest in Guayaquil, although unbeknown to them at the time of arrival the occasion would double up as a homecoming ceremony for Alberto Spencer, a legend of Ecuadorian football about to be honoured for his achievements in Uruguay with Penarol who in the previous year had won the Copa Libertadores and beaten Real Madrid to win the Intercontinental Cup.

But his flight was delayed and kick-off was put back.Then his travel plans were further complicated so the game started and was into its second half when groundstaff shuffled to build a temporary stage in the middle of the pitch.

Play slowed to a halt and Sheffield United’s bewildered players milled around nonplussed as the construction work was completed before Spencer emerged, made his way to the stage, basked in rapturous applause, waved and left.

And most of the crowd left with him as the friendly meandered to a close in an almost empty stadium.

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