For those who follow the English game closely, the name Marcos Lopes may ring a bell. For those who don’t follow the English game very closely, prepare to hear that name more and more as time goes on. Marcos Lopes is a winger/attacking midfielder who turns out for Manchester City’s youth teams. And he doesn’t just turn out…He’s one of their most important and exciting prospects. Last year, having just turned 17, Marcos Lopes entered the pitch for Manchester City’s main team in an FA Cup draw against Watford. Although he was only on the field for a matter of minutes, the winger still managed to pounce on a rebound and score on his debut. The goal made him the youngest ever goalscorer for Manchester City. And it wasn’t just an accident. At the end of that season, Lopes was named the Manchester City Academy’s Player of the Year. As a result, he was made captain of the youth academy team for this season, 2013/2014.
One may think that making a breakthrough at a club with a caliber such as that of Manchester City would be harder than, say, a team such as Aston Villa or Sunderland. That assumption is totally correct. Ahead of Lopes in the pecking order at City are the likes of Sergio Aguero, Stevan Jovetic, Jesus Navas, and James Milner. Seasoned internationals. Bought for millions. This is what makes Marcos Lopes’ situation all the more special. Still only 17, he is already having a go at the first team. Time will tell whether or not he continues to receive opportunities, but there is still one thing that may greatly influence his development: his coach.
When Lopes debuted for the first time on that fateful night against Watford, the coach of Manchester City was Roberto Mancini. The fact that Lopes was considered for first team action under Mancini speaks wonders for the player’s work-rate and dedication. During his tenure, Mancini had tons of cash at his disposal and typically looked to purchase talent rather than develop it. Marcos Lopes’ debut wasn’t a fluke. Over the summer, Mancini was replaced with Manuel Pellegrini, who had a much different philosophy. Pellegrini had just left Malaga, a club who had originally been gifted with mass monetary resources (like Manchester City), but had then seen the money dry up. What Pellegrini was left with at Malaga was a squad with relatively few recognizable names. What he did was nothing short of a miracle. Helping the club to sixth in La Liga and the quarterfinals of the Champions League, Pellegrini relied on young, unproven players. This paid off, with Isco being at the heart of most of the success. With Pellegrini’s background as a youth development expert, we should logically expect to see more of Marcos Lopes, right? Right. A couple of weeks ago, Manchester City began their League Cup campaign at home to Wigan Athletic. Starting on the left wing for City was none other than Lopes. Pellegrini obviously has faith in the 17 year old, as do much of the backroom staff and players, and for good reason.
Oh, and he also is a starter for the Portuguese Under 19 team. Debuting for the team at only 16 years of age, Lopes has gone on to make 13 appearances, scoring eight times. A call-up to the Portugal U-21 team is likely not far off, or maybe even the Senior Team. But who knows. If Marcos Lopes continues to develop as rapidly as he has been, the Seleccao may not be very far away.