There is a beautiful photograph of the Jan Breydel stadium last week, taken as Cole Palmer bounced into Manchester City support in Bruges with Raheem Sterling in tow.
Sterling had his arms outstretched, his smile somewhat wider, after watching the 19-year-old confidently push the cutout ahead of him and then huddle from the edge of the box for a first Champions League goal. Palmer’s trademark, the kind of finish that those who follow City academy teams have seen countless times before.
On the larger stage, here was an image that perfectly captured a description of Palmer’s ascent by a City fountain. ‘You can see the other players now looking at Cole and saying, “okay, WOW.” Nothing puzzles him, ” they said.
Cole Palmer (right) scored a signature finish for his first Champions League goal for Man City
Palmer huddled at home at Club Bruges last week in a career highlight for the 19-year-old.
Rodri is seen beaming in the background and most of Pep Guardiola’s team rushed to attack his prodigious new talent. Palmer, a wiry forward whose brain has always compensated for his slight frame, regards Sterling as a huge help during his adjustment period and it was encouraging to see a seasoned pro going through his own business react so positively.
Palmer, whose YouTube showreel is awash with bold men from the right or from within, has been in Guardiola’s group since Project Restart. The senior coaching staff is excited about the arrival of a large number of youngsters, but Palmer shone from the start.
“He’s the next star,” one said just a few weeks after being introduced to training. Shortly after, it will make its European debut in Marseille.
Prodigy Palmer (center) has been in Pep Guardiola’s first team since Project Restart last year
Watching him thrive among some of the best players in Europe, possibly under the most innovative coach on the continent, it’s hard to imagine anything more than this as an obvious trajectory.
Particularly seeing him move away from the midline and into the corner for a first professional goal during the EFL Cup win over Wycombe Wanderers last month, with Palmer set for more minutes in the competition at West Ham tonight.
However, this has not been a straight path for a teenager born in Wythenshawe, 11 miles from Phil Foden, who joined City from NJ Wythenshawe at age eight. Had it not been for academy director Jason Wilcox, City could have parted ways with him three years ago.
Although he stood out when City beat Derby County to win the Floodlit Cup, scoring two ‘special’ goals in the final, there was a split camp during talks between the coaches and the academy hierarchy on whether he was worthy of. a scholarship, the gateway to professional football.
The midfielder has risen through the City youth ranks after joining the academy at just eight years old.
At the time, Palmer was underdeveloped and in danger of his teammates getting ahead, while City continued to make signings at his position. Wilcox saw something, however, and is said to have “risked his neck” to effectively veto any decision, a show of faith that has been vindicated.
Still, Palmer’s deal was out of line with others of the same age, both in duration and finances. In those terms, the young man was basically told to prove his skeptics wrong.
City quickly advanced with their best talents to the Under 23s, and that team is regularly one of the youngest in Premier League 2, but Wilcox made the decision to slow it down with the Under 18s, where Palmer often operated in an unknown role. of nine false.
Some at the club might have doubted the heights he could climb, but the same cannot be said for a confident player and his parents, Jermaine and Marie.
City held Palmer in the U-18s even though he put his talent in the U-23s
Jermaine has been firm in the belief that his son was destined for the top and the surprise at this season’s exploits is not matched within the close family unit. Jermaine spent hours in the park perfecting moves that Palmer later replicated at the grassroots level to the amazement and bewilderment of his coaches.
A grander platform now. In seven different club and country competitions this season, Palmer is averaging one goal every 88 minutes. Add in your assists and it’s a goal contribution every 64 minutes.
They range from the Champions League to a hat-trick for the City Under 23, the same day Guardiola pitched him as a late substitute against Burnley.
“Rodolfo (Borrell, Guardiola’s assistant) told me that if Cole plays less than 20-25 minutes for us, he is allowed to play in both games,” Guardiola said. “Training with us is nice, but they have to play. When you’re just training and not playing, it’s not good for him. ‘
Palmer then scored a hat-trick for the City Under-23 just hours after coming in against Burnley.
Guardiola praised Palmer’s attitude when he dropped a notch and was a cut above that night, just as he has been for England’s Under-21s since Lee Carsley gave him a debut last month.
Palmer only started the first match of Carsley’s reign against Kosovo by virtue of Emile Smith-Rowe’s absence due to illness, but he soon drew the Milton Keynes crowd in screaming when Cruyff converted a defender to score. It is notable that Carsley’s team now looks to Palmer at every opportunity that comes his way despite his relative inexperience among a group packed with Premier League appearances.
Carsley has known all about him from his time at City, while England manager Ian Foster played a similar national role to Wilcox at club level. Foster consistently championed his cause, casting him in younger age groups over bigger names, and, when they were rated by the FA at St George’s Park, Palmer was categorized as a potential senior player.
Palmer also impresses in the England Under-21 team, scoring two goals in three games.
That’s all there is to it right now: potential. Guardiola has asked for patience, though how long it will last is debatable, and the fact that City turned down all interest on the loan last summer tells its own story. Now you have to trust that they integrate you in a similar way to Foden.
It certainly bodes well that, signing his first major five-year contract in June, sporting director Txiki Begiristain pushed Palmer aside and made him realize that this was the definitive sign that he is considered a player of the first team.
Begiristain takes the responsibility of turning another local boy into a first-team regular exceptionally seriously.
This one, like the other, appears as Guardiola’s archetypal player.