Son of a Thai boxing champion, Man City’s new prodigy Rico Lewis really packs a punch… swapping the classroom for the Champions League brought his first senior goal – but a January loan looks like the next step in the 17-year-old’s development
- Rico Lewis scored his first Manchester City goal on his debut against Sevilla
- German giants Bayern Munich have been watching the 17-year-old closely
- Other Bundesliga clubs were interested in a loan deal ahead of Wednesday’s game
- For those around City’s academy, Lewis’ trajectory is no real surprise
Rico Lewis was straight back to the gate on Thursday morning, with his head in books as part of Manchester City’s training program for its scholars.
He could be forgiven for looking out the classroom window as life changed a few hours earlier. Not just a first professional start – in the Champions League no less – but a first senior goal as well. A prolonged standing ovation at substitution, effusive praise from Pep Guardiola. There have been worse nights.
For those around City’s academy, this trajectory – even at just 17 – comes as no real surprise. He has captained the team throughout his journey, starting when he chose City over Bolton Wanderers at U9 level after enduring Prestwich Pythons close to home in Radcliffe.
Rico Lewis scored his first Manchester City goal on his debut against Sevilla on Wednesday
So perhaps it’s to be expected that Lewis looks the City full-back – he’s been taught the nuances of what Guardiola expects ever since the Catalan took over in 2016, absorbing them all maturely. Lewis now moves like a Guardiola clone, moving into central midfield exactly when needed and regaining possession effortlessly.
It’s no wonder Bayern Munich have been watching him intently, or that other Bundesliga clubs were already interested in a loan deal in January before his performance against Sevilla.
City will start discussing a new contract in the coming months and Guardiola, who had not seen him play before the summer tour of America, is already talking about how an impressive reliability.
‘He is versatile. He suits Pep and the academy got him to play as a winger or midfielder too, says a City source. “Honestly, this is said about a lot of youngsters, but this guy really wants to be a player. There’s this mentality to him.
Lewis has been taught the nuances of what Guardiola expects ever since the Catalan took over
Kevin De Bruyne noticed just that in 2019. The Belgian funds an U15 tournament in his name every summer in Drongen and three years ago saw a diminutive defender in City blue.
Lewis had missed a penalty in a game against Club Brugge before stepping up to convert in the ensuing shootout.
De Bruyne later pulled a member of City staff aside in approval, saying: “Look at his character.”
It was partly built at the Phoenix Muay Thai gym in Whitefield, owned by his father Rick Lewis, a two-time British Muay Thai champion.
The defender spent a lot of time in that environment and those close to him believe his agility and low center of gravity can be traced back to his boxing background. Similar can be said of his sister, Sacha, a winger who has just signed with City’s academy.
Midfielder Kevin De Bruyne noticed Lewis’ quality during a tournament in 2019
People around the club are talking about a family because of soil. His mother, Steph, accompanied Lewis to tournaments abroad and remains a respected parent on the training ground among relatives of other players. Rick was recently invited to give a talk to Under 9 parents on managing expectations of their children and the support needed to see them through the academy system.
“My dad didn’t force me into things but pushed me in (certain) directions to get me out there,” Lewis said.
‘He showed me many of a Muhammad Ali clip. He showed me his story and I took quite a lot from him.’
Lewis can appear light, nimble in tight spaces, but is also deceptively strong, striking with Rick to work on extra toughness from a young age. It has been noted around City’s first team that Lewis can more than hold his own in challenges, despite his size. He has no qualms about going through anyone in a tackle.
Lewis is now a mainstay in first-team sessions and no longer plays for the U23s
– Defensively, he is aggressive enough. He will make mistakes, he has a lot of margin to improve but he is so good, said Guardiola.
He proves every day that he can be with us. Sometimes you think you have to buy but we have someone to be a back-up for Kyle (Walker) and Joao (Cancelo) that we can rely on. It’s a dream come true and good for the economy.
The transition to Guardiola’s squad – Lewis is now a mainstay in sessions, in the team picture and no longer playing for the U23s – has been seamless. Phil Foden has offered significant guidance and support, with the pair sitting next to each other in the dressing room and on the team coach.
Foden knows the importance of a senior player’s help in the first few months with the superstars. It is too early to suggest another may have arrived, but Lewis has made a strong start.
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