Kelechi Iheanacho has impressed Manuel Pellegrini so much that the Manchester City manager is prepared to promote the Nigerian youngster to the club's senior squad.
The Telegraph reports that Iheanacho, along with two other prospects Jason Denayer and Marcos Lopes are being considered to replace departing senior players in the squad as City seek to promote from within the club instead of splashing the cash.
The report adds that Iheanacho will get a chance to feature in Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup games even if top targets Raheem Sterling, Kevin De Bruyne and Paul Pogba are brought to the Etihad Stadium.
With James Milner choosing to reject a new contract at City in order to complete a free transfer to Liverpool, Pellegrini is now faced with replacing three ‘home-grown’ players in his squad following Frank Lampard’s move to New York City and the departure of Belgian defender Dedryck Boyata – a product of City’s youth system – to Celtic.
Premier League clubs can name no more than 17 foreign players over the age of 21 in their squads and the exits of Milner, Lampard and Boyata have left City with only three senior home-grown players in goalkeepers Joe Hart and Richard Wright and French full-back Gaël Clichy, who is classed as such after spending three years of at Arsenal prior to the age of 21.
But while City owner Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan will back Pellegrini with a significant transfer fund this summer, the City manager has already identified teenagers Jason Denayer and Marcos Lopes, both 19, as first-team players for next season.
Denayer, a Belgian centre-half, was named Scotland’s PFA Young Player of the Year this year following the youngster’s impressive campaign on loan at Celtic.
And attacking midfielder Lopes, a Portuguese born in Brazil, will also be promoted to the senior squad next season after returning from a season-long with Lille in France.
Pellegrini is understood to also be considering Iheanacho, who is on international duty at the FIFA U-20 World Cup, to the first-team and is likely to monitor the youngster’s progress during the club’s pre-season tour of Australia and Indonesia.
None of Lopes, Denayer or Iheanacho would be classed as foreign players should they be named in Pellegrini’s Premier League squad due to all three being under the age of 21.