Manchester City strengthened their credentials for the Champions League after beating Sevilla 3-1 in their final group game. The club now await the results of the Round of 16 draw that will take place on November 7 (Monday). And one player who caught the eye in the match was 17-year-old Rico Lewis. The right-back was making his second Champions League appearance and marked the occasion with a well-taken goal.
Rico Lewis’ impressive performances come when the team is light in the right-back position following Kyle Walker’s injury. His rise also shows the strength of the City’s youth system. In fact, against Sevilla, the starting 11 included Phil Foden, Cole Palmer, and Lewis, all of whom came through the academy.
His rise has been incredible. You are one of the best young players if City consider you for their starting XI at 17. Manchester City already have an impressive deputy at left-back in Sergio Gomez and would love it if Lewis could replicate him on the other flank.
So, who is Rico Lewis, and how good is he?
How good is Rico Lewis?
Rico Mark Lewis was born on November 21, 2004, in Bury, England and just like Palmer and Foden started his footballing career at City. He joined the academy aged eight and has stayed at the club ever since. Lewis made him through the various youth levels but first came into the spotlight when he made his debut for City’s under-18 team in September 2020, aged 15.
Lewis would make four appearances before becoming an integral part of the team the following season. He was named captain and would make 21 appearances in the league scoring three goals and providing two assists in the league. City would win the league by scoring the most and conceding the least goals.
His performance would not go unnoticed, as he was invited to several training sessions with the first team. While earlier, it was expected that he would not be called to the first team for another season, Kyle Walker’s injury changed all that. As a result, Joao Cancelo had to play right-back, not his natural position, which was evident in his performances against Liverpool. Even John Stones had deputised in Walker’s absence at the right flank.
With Lewis’ rise, Guardiola now has an option at least for cup matches and league games against weaker rivals. While he may be sparsely used this season, the experience he will accumulate will come in handy next season when City have two brilliant options at the right-back position.
Apart from Premier League and Champions League, Lewis has also made six appearances in Premier League 2 and has one goal to his name.
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Rico Lewis stats
Rico Lewis was impressive in the 2021-22 under-18 season. His three goals were the highest by any right-back. Lewis has made rapid strides in the UEFA Youth League, with one goal and one assist to his name. It is hard to find stats for the under-18, but the fact that he has been given a crack at the first team after just one season shows his talent.
In the match against Sevilla, Lewis was superb. The Englishman played for 85 minutes, recording one goal, a pass accuracy of 90.7 per cent, one chance created, 100 per cent tackles won and dribbles won. This is an impressive start coming against a team that is one of the best in continental tournaments.
And with the start that he has had, his stats will only get better as he gets more time.
Rico Lewis, making 𝐇𝐈𝐒𝐓𝐎𝐑𝐘! ⚡️
— Manchester City (@ManCity) November 3, 2022
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Rico Lewis positioning and style of play
Since Pep Guardiola arrived at the club, there has been a new strategy at clubs where the youth teams play a similar style. This is done to ensure that the players can quickly acclimate to the first team if promoted. And Rico Lewis looks to be the perfect beneficiary of that system.
Like Walker, Lewis is exceptionally skilled on the ball and can play himself out of the opposition’s high press. His exquisite passing range also comes in handy when he has to tuck in the midfield besides the defensive midfielder.
Lewis loves to venture forward on the wings to create overloads and stretch the opposition’s shape. His goal against Sevilla came precisely from this phase of play as Lewis found himself unmarked on the right-hand side and slotted the ball past Yassine Bounou.
First start, first goal for Rico Lewis in Champions League. Another talent coming from Man City Academy. ⭐️ #MCFC
— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) November 2, 2022
And he is also more developed defensively, a trait which will massively help him in the future. However, one area where he could improve is his positioning. Due to his attacking philosophy, he time and again leaves space behind, which can make the team vulnerable to counterattacks.
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Rico Lewis transfer news
Rico Lewis is a brilliant talent with a bright future ahead of him. However, snatching him away from City’s grip will be challenging. Sure, players like Jadon Sancho have left the club searching for greener pastures. However, it was because there was fierce competition for an attacking spot.
However, for Rico Lewis, the advantage is that, barring Kyle Walker, there is no natural right-back at the club. With the performances Lewis has shown come next season, City might not need to shell out money for a defender.
City in the Champions League threw Rico Lewis into a sink-or-swim situation, and the Englishman proved he is a fantastic swimmer.
*This article is sponsored by Jishnu Mitra Foundation, whose mission is to promote football among underprivileged children in India under the age of 15.