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  • Amos Murphy

Manchester City unlikely to make Patrick Roberts mistake again as winger permanently departs

Patrick Roberts has completed a permanent move to League One Sunderland for a fee that could rise up to £3m as per Simon Bajkowski, bringing a seven-year spell with City to a frustrating end.


Tipped to be one of England’s brightest talents when he arrived at the Blues from Fulham in 2015, Roberts failed to break into the City first-team during his time at the Etihad Stadium, instead spending the majority of his time with the club out on loan. Six loan spells in the space of six years culminated with the London-born forward being recalled from a stint with Ligue 1 side ES Troyes AC, before completing a transfer worth up to £3 million to promotion-chasing Sunderland.

Joining City for a fee believed to have been in the region of £12 million back in 2015/16, Roberts went on to make just one Premier League appearance for the Blues – a pitiful four-minute cameo during a September 2015 defeat away to Tottenham Hotspur. With most of Roberts’ appearances during his maiden City campaign coming for the under-23 side, it was perhaps no surprise to see the winger dropped into the loan-move roulette early on in his Blues’ career.

Firstly pitching up at Celtic, Roberts joined the Scottish outfit in January 2016 on an initial 18-month loan deal, before extending his stay for a further season. Lifting three Scottish Premiership titles, two League Cups and two Scottish Cups during his time with the Glasgow-based side, Roberts returned to City with his future looking bright, but further frustration for the Englishman ensued. Finding minutes still hard to come by under new boss Pep Guardiola, the former Fulham man underwent further loan spells at Girona, Norwich City, Middlesbrough, Derby County and eventually Troyes.

Leaving City with just three senior appearances under his belt and one League Cup medal to his name, it is hard to argue a case for either the club or the player having benefited from this transfer. Financially, City have posted a loss for the move, whilst having little to show for their overall investment, whilst a promising young talent in Roberts has seen his career stutter for a number of seasons. Less stop-start, and more just stop, Roberts leaves Manchester no doubt wondering what could have been, but aged just 24-years-old, there remains plenty of time for the former England youth international to resurrect his career.

Photo courtesy of Sunderland AFC

For the Blues, it is unlikely they will ever make the same mistake again, with City’s recruitment strategies having seen a huge shift since Roberts was purchased seven years ago. Instead of the previous policy of stockpiling talent, before flogging players off for less than they were purchased for, the Blues have struck a healthy balance between buying cheap, and selling high. Whilst City’s tally of players out on loan currently stands at a hefty 34 players, only one of those was signed for a fee over £10 million – Spanish midfielder Pedro Porro, who has made over 30 appearances and scored five goals for Portuguese champions Sporting CP.

What’s more, with new rules around the number of players clubs are allowed to loan out coming into effect at the beginning of the 2024/25 season, expect the Roberts saga to remain as a slight blip on the City Football Group’s usually exceptional record of developing talent for profit. The chance of seeing another Patrick Roberts-esque transfer withering away in the City ranks remains slim, not least because the likes of Phil Foden and Cole Palmer have proved there now exists a route from the youth set-up, into the first-team.

With time on his side, there is nothing to suggest Roberts won’t be able to resurrect his career elsewhere. What had seemed an inevitability for some time has finally come to an end, with Roberts eventually moving on from the Etihad Stadium, having failed to live up to the reputation he arrived with a sorry seven years ago.


Written by: @AmosMurphy_

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