Manchester City-bound Kayky providing glimpses of potential at Fluminense

While Manchester City win the Carabao Cup and turn focus to the Champions League semifinal, they are also preparing for the long term -- and the news coming out of Brazil is looking good.

The details were finalised last week on a €10 million deal -- with instalments that could rise to €26m -- that will bring 17-year-old Kayky from Fluminense across the Atlantic.

Kayky has been on City's radar for a while and is already giving hints that the club's faith might be justified. The road between promise and reality is long and winding, and there are no guarantees that success at youth level can be replicated in the senior ranks. Roger Machado, Fluminense's intelligent and sensitive coach, has been giving the youngster his first experience in the team. True, the Rio de Janeiro State Championship is hardly top level. Some of the teams against which Kayky has been playing barely qualify for professional status. Even so, coming up against adults is a test for a slightly built 17-year-old, and he has not been fazed in the slightest.

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Against Nova Iguacu, Kayky scored a goal that made it clear why he has been dubbed "the left-footed Neymar." He cut in from the right, slaloming his way through the defence and beating the keeper -- a moment that highlighted a number of his strengths.

There is his dribbling skill, with the ball tied to his left foot. Every bit as important is the way that he seems in control of the action. There is that Neymar-esque gift to appear to have time, to be able instinctively to calculate the angles and the possibilities that are opening up while carrying the ball at pace. And then there was his calm in front of goal, picking his spot with cool precision.

It was a special goal, but it was only in the Rio State Championship. What could he do against genuine continental heavyweights in South America's Copa Libertadores, the equivalent of the Champions League?

We found out on Thursday when Fluminense began their campaign by hosting Buenos Aires giants River Plate. Winners in 2018, narrowly beaten finalists in 2019 and narrowly beaten semifinalists in 2020, Marcelo Gallardo's River have been one of the outstanding sides in South America over the last few years. There is no other team on the continent which moves the ball as sweetly. And Fluminense faced them with 2014 World Cup centre-forward Fred, now 37, supported by 39-year-old attacking midfielder Nene.

There was only one way that this could work. Kayky on the right and the strapping 20-year-old Luiz Henrique on the left would have to put in a double shift, causing as many problems as they could in attack, but also working back to get a grip on River's dangerous attacking full-backs.

For Kayky, this was a massive step up from anything he had previously faced, both in terms of the level of the opposition and in the tactical importance of his role. And, once again, the youngster was unfazed.

With five substitutions available, Kayky was never going to be asked to play the full 90 minutes, and he was taken off just before the hour mark. But it was a very promising hour. He diligently performed his defensive duties, and still had enough gas in the tank to cause River some problems. There were a couple of exciting dribbles and some quick bursts into space that were in danger of provoking panic in the opposing defence. Fluminense could not afford him to be a luxury player, and he was nothing of the sort. He was a team performer who looked like a potential match-winner, and it will be fascinating to watch him develop.

Kayky was rested at the weekend -- a sign that Machado has him in mind for the next games in the Libertadores. Fluminense are in a tough group, and find themselves in Colombia both this week and next -- in the cool mountain air of Bogota to face Santa Fe this Wednesday, and scorching on the coastal city of Barranquilla to take on Junior the following Thursday.

These will be different challenges. Although they were at home last week, Fluminense played River as if they were the away team, looking to strike on the break. Santa Fe and Junior are unlikely to offer the same space, and may also tackle with more ruggedness that Kayky has seen so far -- especially as they will have seen his display against River Plate.

Anything that happens, of course, can be put down to experience. And if Kayky is winning, then so are Manchester City. Because the long term beneficiaries of this experience will not be Fluminense, but a club on the other side of the Atlantic who will whisk him away while he is still an adolescent.