Adam Johnson joined the City Blues in 2009 from Middlesbrough where he had shown great promise for both club and country.
The Englishman, then 22 years old had initially impressed at the Etihad, but found himself moving further and further down the pecking order upon the arrival of James Milner, David Silva, Mario Balotelli, Yaya Toure, Samir Nasri and Sergio Aguero.
"Now, if I was a young lad, I wouldn't go to City. It is excellent when a club like City come for you, it's hard to turn down. But you don't actually play for the champions - you're a squad member, which is totally different."
But his compatriot Jack Rodwell who signed for City this year at the tender age of 21, responded to Johnson’s comments, dismissing claims that the club’s competition for places can have a detrimental affect on young English players.
He said, “I’m young and English. I’ve not got a bad word to say about City. If they want you and sign you, then they have got intent for you. When the champions come knocking, it’s hard to refuse.”
A similar fate befell Scott Parker when he moved to Chelsea in 2004 at the age of 24. Parker made only 15 appearances for the Blues, spending the majority of his Chelsea career warming the bench.
However, his time at Newcastle, West Ham, and Tottenham saw him become one of the Premier League’s most influential players and his valuation has risen as an important first team player, making more than 200 appearances since his departure from Stamford Bridge.
"It's not that you're not good enough, it's just that the likes of Yaya Toure are going to play ahead of you, no matter what you do." Johnson continued,
“You can probably have too many world-class players at once - everyone wants to play and they're not happy to be squad players. You're going to have trouble picking a team, and leaving people in the stands. I was one of them last season."
But it seems Rodwell is unlikely to heed his warning. The young man seems more than happy to prove himself worthy of his place on the champion’s team sheet. He appears grounded in his expectations, having found similar competition at former club Everton.
“I was not guaranteed a starting place at Everton. I had a lot of injuries, Darren Gibson and Marouane Fellaini were in form, so it was a push for me to get in that side.”
Can Manchester City be held responsible for ‘unhappy squad players’ or is it the players’ own responsibility to force their way into the starting line-up?
Perhaps that’s a conversation best left for Rodwell and Johnson at the end of their careers. But, if Scott Parker’s Premier League and England trajectory is anything to go by, both will do just fine. Eventually.
image: © p_a_h