Manchester City’s team post-takeover has become unrecognisable. Superstars from around the world have graced Etihad Stadium. In such a scenario, it becomes difficult for academy products to make a name for themselves in the first team. Only prodigiously talented youngsters get a sniff of the first team, and only world-class ones go on to establish themselves there. Phil Foden has been followed by Rico Lewis, who looks set to be followed by Shea Charles.
Who is Shea Charles?
A hard-tackling defensive midfielder, Shea Charles has made waves in Manchester City’s youth squads ever since he joined the club as an Under-9 player.
He has jumped through the age groups with startling efficiency, with the City coaches always pushing him to the next level. He signed his first professional contract with the club in July 2021. Thereafter, he moved to City’s EDS (Elite Development Squad). The EDS has been the breeding ground for many talented City youngsters in the past. The likes of Phil Foden, Rico Lewis, Taylor Harwood-Bellis, Josh Wilson-Esbrand, and many more have tread this path before Charles.
Manchester City have really amped up their youth coaching and recruitment since the takeover and the results are now arriving. Charles is the latest breakthrough prospect.
Shea Charles potential
Pep Guardiola has changed the playbook at the club. His style of positional football is now taught across all age groups in Manchester City. This was particularly clear when Rico Lewis made his first-team debut and played as an inverted wing-back (full-back who comes into the midfield) like he had been doing that for years.
Shea Charles comes from the same school. Able to play as a defensive midfielder, a centre-back, or even as a right-back, Charles is a jack of all trades in defence. With regular game time in the coming years, he has the potential to become a master of them too. However, he has made the most impact as a defensive midfielder. If he can improve his passing further, that would be his ideal role in the future.
With Manchester City not having many able backups to Rodri in that position, there is an opening to be had if Shea Charles continues his ascent. He recently made the bench for the first leg of Manchester City’s UCL fixture against RB Leipzig on February 22, 2023.
How good was Shea Charles last night!? 👏🏻 #GAWA pic.twitter.com/EvRJyWuamL
— Northern Ireland (@NorthernIreland) March 24, 2023
The picture is even rosier at the international level. Shea Charles has already made his senior debut for Northern Ireland. Having played for all age groups for his country, he made his senior international debut against Greece on June 2, 2022, then made his first senior start on June 5 against Cyprus.
For a defensive midfielder, who also plays as a CB sometimes, goals and assists can never show the full picture. However, Charles’ importance to a very good City EDS can be seen from one stat.
In the 2022-23 PL2 season (U23s), Charles has made 20 appearances, being in the starting eleven 100% of the time, playing 99% of all available minutes. Shea Charles is the first name on the teamsheet in a squad full of elite prospects. He has played a total of 2,694 minutes in 30 appearances across all competitions (including EFL Trophy and UEFA Youth League).
This is quite the photo from #mcfc yesterday, L to R
Nico O’Reilly with the U17 PL Cup
Rico Lewis with the U18 PL Trophy
Fernandinho with the PL Trophy
Shea Charles with the PL2 Trophy
Lakyle Samuel with the U16 PL Cup pic.twitter.com/Mrs2hLVklg
— Simon Bajkowski (@spbajko) May 23, 2022
He has a single assist to his name and is yet to score. However, he has been a crucial member of the City EDS which has retained the PL2 title and is currently leading the pack again.
Shea Charles’ playing style.
A combative defensive midfielder who likes to put in a tackle, Shea Charles is a bit of a throwback in terms of playing style. However, he has shown sparkling improvement in his range of passing and vision this season. He is capable of playing progressive passes from the deep when the situation demands but he is in his element while breaking up opposition moves, either with quick tackles, or smart interceptions.
A good senior comparison, purely in terms of playing style and not potential/ability, would be to the defensive midfielder in the ranks of their city rivals- Casemiro.
Furthermore, Charles’ versatility has allowed his managers to use him in a variety of roles. Stints at CB and RB have given him a more rounded skillset.
Charles has an inherent leadership skill that helps him rally the team. Combined with his ability and personality, Manchester City have a potential captain on their hands if everything breaks right for him in his career. Before that, however, there is a question of holding on to him.
Future at Manchester City
A talented young player breaks through, the elite senior squad have no place for him, he seeks new pastures, and flourishes elsewhere. Manchester City have seen this tale before. It happened with Jadon Sancho, and a repeat might happen with Jamie Bynoe-Gittens.
There is a feeling of deja vu when it comes to Shea Charles as well. Fabrizio Romano has reported that Borussia Dortmund is monitoring Charles’ situation at The Cityzens. His professional deal expires in 2027 so there’s no need to panic there. However, a lack of senior opportunities might tempt Charles to look elsewhere.
Interest is growing around Shea Charles, Man City talented midfielder born in 2003 — already playing for Northern Ireland 🔵 #MCFC
Understand Borussia Dortmund are keeping an eye on him 🟡⚫️ #BVB
Charles, another example of Man City academy producing homegrown talent. pic.twitter.com/k2d1jPkWqb
— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) March 25, 2023
German Bundesliga has become a flourishing space for many English youngsters. If Man City are not able to provide him with the required game time, they might lose him to Dortmund.
Jadon Sancho came back to their city rivals instead in a highly celebrated deal at the time, City would want to avoid a repeat of that this time.