The 29,195 fans who showed up at Hard Rock Stadium Saturday night for the International Champions Cup got a glimpse of the potential future stars of Manchester City and Bayern Munich.
With more than two dozen players missing from the two teams due to post-World Cup vacation and injuries, the reigning champions of the English Premier League and German Bundesliga took the opportunity to showcase their youngest talents.
Manchester City, which rallied from two goals down to win 3-2, used a starting lineup that included 17-year-old Eric Garcia, 18-year-old Phil Foden, 18-year-old Luke Bolton, 20-year-old Douglas Luiz, and 19-year-old Lukas Nmecha, a German-born player who scored the tying goal to make it 2-2 in the 52nd minute.
“I am satisfied with how our guys played, doesn’t matter the score. For these guys it was a huge experience, to see they can play against really big teams,” Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola said of his inexperienced roster. “We came here with a lot, a lot, a lot of young players. We had just one or two professional players from the first team. For these guys to play against Liverpool and Bayern Munich, this will be good for them for the future.”
Guardiola said the U.S. tour has been successful despite losing two of three games.
“You cannot imagine how I enjoyed these weeks with these guys,” he said. “The young guys have desire. They are starving to be football players. They’re hungry. When you say something to them, they open their eyes and listen to you because they know we’re here to help them...The guys we had were 17, 18, 19, so to do what they did, I’m so, so happy.”
Bayern Munich also had teenage starters – 18-year-old defender Chris Richards, who is on loan from FC Dallas of Major League Soccer; 19-year-old midfielder Paul Will, and 19-year-old Meritan Shabani, who scored the first goal Saturday on a header off a Rafinha cross to give Bayern a 1-0 lead in the 16th minute.
Bayern went up 2-0 in the 24th minute on a goal by Dutch veteran Arjen Robben. Bernardo Silva scored two goals for ManCity, including the match-winner in the 70th minute.
Garcia, a Spanish wonderkid who joined ManCity last year from FC Barcelona’s famed “La Masia” youth academy, has been a bright spot on the back line during the three-game U.S. preseason tour. He has impressed with composure that belies his youth, smart passes, and his ability to distribute the ball and switch the field.
Garcia was with Barcelona’s academy since age 7 and was a standout at every age group. When he signed with Manchester City, he was referred to as “the jewel of La Masia.” He played for Spain in the Under-17 World Cup, was captain of ManCity’s Under-18 team, and last year moved up to the club’s Under-23 squad. He is under contract until 2022.
His performance in the ICC could earn him some playing time later this season, just as Foden’s breakout summer last year gave coach Pep Guardiola the confidence to give the teenager a few chances to show his skills during the regular season.
“Eric Garcia is 17 or 18 and played like he is 24 or 25,” Guardiola said after the loss to Borussia Dortmund in Chicago.
Guardiola praised Luiz on Friday, saying the young Brazilian had “real potential.” Luiz played well against Dortmund but suffered a minor ligament injury and sat out the Liverpool game, which ManCity also lost.
“Manchester City’s academy is one of the best in the world, lots of fantastic young kids coming through, more all the time, and (the ICC) gives these youngsters the opportunity to see what it’s like to be a first-team player, to play for one of the best coaches in the world, Pep Guardiola, and play against top opposition, which is only going to enhance their careers going forward,” said Paul Dickov, a former Manchester City player who is promoting the club on this tour.
He had high praise for Foden.
“Home-grown player, came up through the academy, only 17, in the Under-17 World Cup he was voted the best player of the tournament. He’s going to be a superstar,” Dickov said. “He’s a fantastic talent and he’s got the best coach in the world, so there’s no end to where he can go.”
He also sees potential in Jack Harrison, who was born in England, spent his teen years in the United States, and was drafted by New York City FC of Major League Soccer before heading to Man City.
“It was a big step for him coming from MLS, and seeing him against Borussia Dortmund the other night, he didn’t look out of place at all,” Dickov said.
Another young MLS player getting international exposure is Alabama-born Richards, who was just loaned to Bayern Munich from FC Dallas earlier this summer. He is expected to spend most of his time with the club’s U-19 team but played 45 minutes against Juventus and started Saturday against Manchester City.
“He’s a very talented player,” said Bayern manager Nico Kovac. “He has been great in training and in the games. He has a lot of work to do, but he will have a chance to develop with us.”
Last week Bayern announced the signing of 17-year-old Canadian-Ghanian Alphonso Davies, who transferred from the Vancouver Whitecaps. As a 16-year-old, he scored for Canada in the Gold Cup. He is already drawing comparisons to a young Robben. He will join the team in January, after the MLS season.