Bersant Celina made his first-team debut today as City strolled to a 3-0 victory at Norwich in the FA Cup, and though it was only for just under ten minutes, it was deserved. I'd be waiting for this moment for some months now, and it was a great relief that the nineteen-year-old finally made his domestic appearance. The young attacking midfielder is a wonderfully graceful little footballer, the kind that would fit into the first team's pass and move style with ease. Elegant, skilful, always with an eye for the spectacular – he’s been a regular for the EDS this season and was a huge part of last season’s run to the FA Youth Cup final. He’s capable of playing in a whole host of positions across the attacking third. Nominally at the peak of a midfield three, he’s also played as a false 9 for the recently formed Kosovo national side, and he’s also lined up out wide for the EDS, acquitting himself well in all roles. This debut was long overdue.
Though far from the finished article, and most young attackers never are at 19, there is clearly a huge amount of ability within those boots of his, with vast potential for greater things. If he learns to assert himself in a more physical environment, and also learns how to contribute when the team is in something of a fallow spell, then he’ll go far. There are no doubts technically. He’s at his best when the team is confident around him, dropping into space and playing excellent little one-twos in and around the area. The kind of player who would appreciate the talents of Silva and co. He’s a magnificent free-kick taker too – think Yaya’s free-kicks when he went through that brilliant spell of scoring seemingly every other game. He clips the ball over the wall expertly, a real, clean finisher. Celina has done this repeatedly at youth level.
The signs are encouraging, and with experience and a little luck there’s the potential for him to contribute to City’s fortunes in the coming years. For now a loan possibly awaits away from the club, but we can’t underestimate how important steps like today are. These youth players need that experience. That teaser, the carrot on the stick. It eases them in, shows them what it could be like for them in the future and it alleviates any initially understandable nerves that they may have. Thankfully, Celina is a confident player – evident in his two snapshots at goal despite being on the pitch for a handful of minutes – but others aren’t. That’s fine, either way. The important thing is pushing these players out of their comfort zone one by one. This is a step in the right direction. More of the same please, Manuel.