Manuel Pellegrini has backed Kelechi Iheanacho to enjoy further success at Manchester City after the teenage striker netted in his manager’s farewell 1-1 Premier League draw at Swansea City.
Iheanacho’s 14th goal of an impressive breakthrough season gave the visitors an early lead at the Liberty Stadium but they were pegged back by Andre Ayew’s free-kick on the stroke of half-time.
Top scorer Sergio Aguero and Iheanacho were both culpable for spurning chances to secure a Manchester City win after the break but to all intents and purposes the point secured a top-four finish and entry into the Champions League for when Pep Guardiola arrives as Pellegrini’s successor next term.
And the Chilean believes the incoming Bayern Munich boss will have an exceptional prospect on his hands.
“I think he demonstrated how important he [Iheanacho] is,” Pellegrini told a post-match news conference.
“He is a very good player but he also must improve a lot. But a player of 19-years-old who scores so many goals and not playing all the games, I think has a brilliant future. I think all the fans of City will be delighted with him in the next years.”
Sections of City’s fanbase have criticised Pellegrini for not blooding other young prospects within an ageing squad this term, while Guardiola’s decorated spell in charge of Barcelona won him a reputation as one of the premier developers of youth talent in football.
Pellegrini pointed to the fact that City remain in a relatively early stage of development following Sheikh Mansour’s transformative 2008 takeover and believes the club’s age-group sides are now moving towards elite level.
“I think maybe in the next years you will see some players from the academy,” he said.
“It’s not easy, you must remember that this club started a real process to be a big team in the last eight years.
“So when you are trying to have a big squad, maybe at the beginning the young players must be a bit postponed.
“But I think now they are working very well in all the young divisions. We reached the [FA Youth Cup] final against Chelsea this season, so I’m sure with the way that this club wants to continue improving and growing in the future you will see young players in the first squad soon.”
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