Teenage Hearts defender Aaron Hickey is reportedly a firm transfer target for Manchester City.
The 17-year-old was named in The Guardian‘s Next Generation 2019 feature of 60 of the best young talents in world football, with the publication stating that the Premier League champions were strongly interested in the player.
According to The Guardian, a “blossoming alliance” between the two clubs has added to the scale of the youngster’s development, with Ryo Meshino on loan at Tynecastle from the Etihad Stadium, while The Sun reported that Manchester City have been tracking the Scottish teenager.
Hickey, who plays mainly at left-back and turned 17 in June, had made just three first team appearances for Hearts when he was handed a starting berth in the Scottish Cup final against Celtic last season.
Although his team lost 2-1 on the day, his display was praised in numerous quarters afterwards. The Scottish Sun said that he could be “hugely proud of his performance” up against James Forrest, who scored 18 times during the season.
Ross Pitcher of Edinburgh Live wrote: “You’d think he’d been playing for years”, adding that he “showed composure that belied his 16 years”. Darren Johnstone of Deadline News said that he “ensured the Bhoys had little luck down the right flank”.
Hickey has been a regular presence in Craig Levein’s line-up this season, starting all but one game for Hearts so far in 2019/20 and scoring in a derby win over Hibernian. [via TransferMarkt]
In The Guardian, Ewan Murray described him as “two-footed, terrific at managing the ball in tight situations and composed when in possession”, while the teenager has shown his versatility by playing at centre-back, right-back and right midfield in addition to his customary left-back role.
That ability to play anywhere across the defence could be crucial if he goes to Manchester City, where Pep Guardiola already has three left-backs but only two right-backs, while injuries to John Stones and Aymeric Laporte left City so stuck for centre-back cover that defensive midfielder Fernandinho has been deployed in that position.
Hickey’s widely-praised performance in the Scottish Cup final suggests that he can handle himself on big occasions, while his sustained run in the Hearts team should ensure that he has plenty of senior experience under his belt if he does go to Manchester City in the future.
Also, the existing alliance with Hearts from Meshino’s loan could give City an edge if they come calling for the Scottish left-back in the future.
He couldn’t expect too many minutes in the first team at the Etihad, though, with summer full-back arrivals Joao Cancelo and Angelino playing just 419 minutes between them in City’s first 12 games of the season, while even a bespoke young centre-back in Eric Garcia has been little-used despite the team’s shortage of senior players in that role.
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