In 2017 it was Phil Foden, last year it was Bernardo Silva. While pre-season is mostly a time for working on fitness and fine-tuning game plans, there is always the possibility of catching the manager’s eye and improving your own standing in the squad.
There might be not much of a turnover at City now Pep Guardiola has built his winning machine, but that doesn’t mean that players previously on the fringes can’t make a mark, or youngsters seeking to make the grade can’t show just how high their potential is in a first team environment.
So when City’s squad jet off to China this weekend it is the example that the likes of Foden and Bernardo have set that others can seek to follow. This is might be one of the most competitive squads in Europe, but there is always room for improvement and development.
Two years ago Guardiola was taken aback by the performance of a then 17-year-old Foden in a pre-season Manchester derby in the United States. It was the moment Foden’s path to the first team under Guardiola became clearer, his development suddenly a priority for the City boss.
“I don’t have words. I would like to have the right words to describe what I saw,” Guardiola said after Foden’s display.
“You are lucky guys, believe me, you are the guys who saw his first game in the first team at Manchester City.
“I’ve not seen something like I saw today for a long time. His performance was another level. He’s a City fan and loves the club. He’s a gift for us.”
Guardiola was similarly effusive last summer when centre back Eric Garcia got his first team chance on pre-season. Again his path through the ranks with the Blues suddenly became obvious and he will be part of the senior squad next season.
“In three games against Bayern Munich, Liverpool and Dortmund, he was incredibly good,” Guardiola said earlier this season of the impact Garcia had last summer.
He wasn’t the only one to catch the eye last year. It was a disrupted pre-season for the Blues – as it was for many of the Premier League’s top six sides – because of the World Cup.
But when Bernardo returned to training and immediately showed significant improvement from his first season at the club Guardiola knew he was set for a bigger role in 2018/19, although he probably didn’t envisage quite the season that the Portugal international produced.
Bernardo was the driving force in dragging City to victory against Bayern Munich in a friendly and while after the game Guardiola insisted the “result doesn’t matter”, performances do and Bernardo’s, just after his return to training, proved to be significant for him and for City.
The early season injury to Kevin De Bruyne handed Bernardo his chance, but after impressing his manager in pre-season he ended the campaign as the first name on the teamsheet.
That is the kind of impact that an impressive pre-season can have on a player’s fortunes, so when City head off to the Far East there will be a few players ready to try and catch the eye of Guardiola this summer.