Danny Mills has used Rico Lewis’ debut for Manchester City to have a dig at Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta.
Lewis, aged 17 years and 346 days, marked his first senior start by netting City’s equaliser as they came from behind to beat Sevilla 3-1 in their final Champions League group game.
It was a sweet moment for the Manchester-born youngster, who took full advantage of an opportunity to play in the continuing absence of injured England international Kyle Walker.
Mills praised the teenager’s performance after the game but also took the opportunity to have a go at Arteta, comparing the situation to that of Arsenal academy player Ethan Nwaneri, who himself made history earlier this season by becoming the youngest ever player in the Premier League.
Nwaneri came on as a late substitute in the 3-0 win at Brentford aged just 15 years and 181 days.
Mills said: “Rico Lewis magnificent for him to score. But what I like about what Pep does with the youngsters, he doesn’t throw them in too soon, he doesn’t throw youngsters in for the sake of it.
“Think about what happened at Arsenal with Ethan Nwaneri. Got a minute of a game not played since.
“Played one Premier League 2 game, one in the U21s, only four in the U18s and been involved in the U17s.
“So, what was the point of that? If you get into this Manchester City side you deserve it.”
Pep Guardiola hailed Lewis as “something special” after the game, insisting he deserved his opportunity to shine.
“We don’t give presents because he is a Man City fan or from the academy,” said City manager Guardiola. “You have to earn it.
“But we’ve seen him since day one of pre-season. This guy has something special.
“Defensively he is aggressive and with the ball he is so good. Of course he has a lot to improve but the academy here is working amazingly.”
Lewis’ strike early in the second half cancelled out a first-half header from Rafa Mir and City went on to win comfortably with further goals from Julian Alvarez and Riyad Mahrez.
Lewis was substituted five minutes from time and, as he was on the far side of the field at the time, earned a huge reception as he walked around the field back to the bench.
“He made a standing ovation all the way round,” said Guardiola. “He played really good.
“He is 17 years old but he is so clever, so intelligent. You say something, he understands everything. I’m happy for him.”