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Aapo Virtanen: Don’t Look Back In Anger

Started on 6 November 2018 by Jack
Latest Reply on 5 September 2019 by Justice
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11 monthsEdited


Manchester City have agreed a double-deal for two 16-year-olds as Cardiff City’s Mark Nicholls and Crystal Palace’s Fatlum Halilaj sign youth deals with pre-contract arrangements in place.

Neither player has played a minute of first-team football for their former clubs, with Mark Nicholls’ single time sitting on the bench for Cardiff City in the Carabao Cup being the closest that either player has got to playing first-team football.

Mark Nicholls has already been capped at Under-19 level for Wales after impressing for Cardiff’s Under-18 side with his four goals in seven games in the youth league.

The Welsh striker will turn 17 in September which is when he will start his professional contract at City, earning £5,750 per week. It is unknown whether he will be loaned out to a lower division club this season. He has joined from City’s affiliate club for a fee of £2.5million

Fatlum Halilaj was born in Klina, Kosovo but moved to London at the age of five, thus gaining British citizenship later in life. He is also half-Albanian due to the close proximity between Albania and the disputed territory of Kosovo.

The 16-year-old central midfielder signed for a fee of £7.5million from The Eagles who negotiated hard for their prized young asset. Eventually the Championship side gave in to City’s offer.

He has impressed in the Crystal Palace youth teams with ten U18 appearances last season, scoring two goals and assisting once. He has yet to declare his nationality, having been given three nationality options.

Halilaj was reportedly convinced to work under Aapo Virtanen by Crystal Palace first-teamer José Vicente Solbes who worked under Virtanen in AC Oulu’s first-team at the age of 16 himself before he signed with Crystal Palace in 2019 for a fee of £275,000 after scoring two goals in 11 Veikkausliiga appearances.




BigMaguire: He was ageing and unhappy here, I think £40m is a good price regardless of his ability, which in itself is declining with lost pace.

Jim: Only a £9million loss from when City originally bought him in 2015, so I'd say that we have done well to recoup so much from an unhappy player.

Scott: Indeed, he wasn't going to get into the team this year.

TheLFCFan: Well he's been here ten years, only one year of which he was trying to force a move so not as bad as you think even though there may have been a tinge of bitterness in your comment ;)

SonOfAnarchy: Good for all parties, really. Us, Watford and Sterling seem happy with the transfer so you can't argue with that!
Welcome to them both. Nicholls joins with a very impressive games to game ratio at youth level, it has to be said.
Late to the party here, but I'll join in: massively impressive story! Big inspiration :D
Some rather large fees for players so young, especially Halilaj. However, both look good prospects and hopefully we see them in the City first team side in the near future.
Got a good bit of Sterling for old Raheem's departure. Shame to see it spent on making a Brexit FC team though ;)
Two young players who could be very important for the future of Man City, especially Halilaj will be one to watch
Halijaj looks stunning! And Nicholls could easily be a gem. Nice work! ;)
Halijaj seems like a proper wonderkid and Nicholls like a decent little prospect too. Push them to the max and I'm sure the results will be more than impressive!
those are some kids! Love the workrate at such a young age!

With the English summer transfer window almost at its conclusion, it is Manchester City who have yet again set the pace with no less than 12 new additions amounting to just under £350million.


The first signing - and cheapest - of the window was the arrival of Paulo Dybala who joined the club following his Juventus contract expired this July. With a swarm of clubs after the attacking midfielder’s signature after ten years in Turin, the offer of £325,000 per week at the Etihad Stadium and the leadership of Virtanen was what persuaded the Argentinian to choose City.

The signing of Adam Robertson followed shortly after as he became the most expensive transfer of Aapo Virtanen’s career as his release clause with Burnley was triggered as City paid out £93million for the right-winger who began his career at Boreham Wood.

With Juan Otálvaro always out of favour with Virtanen despite being his own January signing, Priestley Race was bought for his release clause of £33.5million from last year's Championship Play-Off finalists. He becomes the first-choice goalkeeper ahead of Irish number two Gavin Bazunu.

The double signing of 16 year olds Mark Nicholls and Fatlum Halilaj followed from Cardiff City [City’s affiliate club] and Crystal Palace respectively for a combined fee of £10million.

Chelsea striker Sean Richards was the next to sign up, becoming the club’s fifth homegrown signing of the summer. After being sent out on four consecutive loan spells away from Stamford Bridge to Plymouth, Huddersfield, Bournemouth and Brighton, Chelsea accepted a £36million offer which rises to £45million depending on performance clauses.

21-year-old Brad Smart was the next up, with the centre-midfielder signing a five-year contract after impressing Carlo Ancelotti at Arsenal last season. The clubs agreed a £27.5million fee, rising to £32.5million. With Smart being born in Spain, it is up to the Arsenal youth graduate to decide whether he wants to play for either Spain or England on the internationally after already making 17 U21 caps for Spain.

Tottenham U23 duo Byron Cole and Bradley Devonshire both agreed to a move up north from North London to Manchester with a combined £9.5million fee for the pair.

In City’s 2nd-most expensive transfer of the window so far, Lee Middleton signed for an initial £56million fee, rising to £61million as the English Liverpool left-winger impressed in his last three seasons on loan to Southampton, Burnley and Brighton in the Premier League.

After the sale of a key centre-back in Niklas Sule to Real Madrid, Frits Segers’ release clause at PSV Eindhoven was triggered and the 22-year-old Dutch centre-back joined the club for a £30million fee after 68 first-team appearances at his boyhood club in the Eredivisie.

Finally, Daniel Rietveld and Aapo Virtanen have also been reunited at Manchester City, as the right-back who played under Virtanen at Fiorentina had his release clause at Hertha Berlin triggered, joining City for £48.5million. He originally joined Fiorentina for £7.75million before his £27million move to the Bundesliga.


Moving onto departures, City saw just eight of their players move to other clubs permanently for transfer fees.

The first to leave were midfield duo Claude Blondel and Salvatore Venturelli who left for both Chelsea and Liverpool respectively. Blondel had been on his way out ever since joining City under Ancelotti but fans and staff alike had high hopes for Venturelli but his nightmare spell at City is now over as the pair leave for a combined fee of £47.5million.

Raheem Sterling finally forced himself out of the club after becoming unhappy upon winning the 2024/25 Champions League under Carlo Ancelotti. His unhappiness was over having achieved all he could at Manchester City and wanting to move onto a new challenge. With new wingers arriving to move him further down the pecking order, Sterling agreed a £40million move to fellow Premier League side Watford.

After only six months at the club, Colombian goalkeeper Juan Otálvaro left for Schalke 04 for the exact same fee that City bought him from FC Porto for as the Bundesliga side paid £52million for the 24 year old’s services since conceding 25 league goals in 17 appearances following Éderson’s departure to PSG in January.

Eric Mensah-Nyarko left the club for £100,000 to join EFL League One outfit Notts County after he was told that he would never receive first-team football at City.

In a similar case, City striker Andy Baxter left to join relegated side Blackburn Rovers in the Championship for a fee of £500,000. The 18-year-old never made a first-team appearance for City but he played well at youth level.

Onto deals affecting the first-team, Mateo Kovacic left City after an impressive season last year under Aapo Virtanen. His £60million move to Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga ends his seven-year stay in Manchester after scoring 10 and assisting 15 times last season in all competitions.

Niklas Sule is the most recent and possibly the last permanent departure from the club as he became the club’s most expensive transfer moving away from the club. Since joining for £101million four years ago from Bayern Munich, Sule has made 85 Premier League appearances for Manchester City, scoring twice as well as scoring the goal that won City the UEFA Super Cup last season against Juventus. He joins Real Madrid for a fee of £75million.


Two key first-team players in Kevin De Bruyne and Nélson Semedo both ended their lengthy stays at the Etihad Stadium as they came to the end of their contracts at the club.

De Bruyne has not yet found a new club, with his lofty wage demands putting a lot of potential suitors off making a deal with the Belgian central midfielder.

However, Semedo has been able to locate a new club at the age of 32 as he joins fellow Premier League club Chelsea on a two-year deal on £105,000 per week at Stamford Bridge.

Joel Stewart and Dylan Lonergan managed to sign contracts with Leicester City while former City pair Graham Lindsey and Pat McKeown both joined Birmingham City.

Tommy Doyle finally completed his pre-arranged contract move to Swansea City after spending last season on loan at The Swans and impressing the management there.

Martin McDonald found a new club in Derby County meanwhile City youth graduate Isaac Rocha finalised a move abroad as he joined Celta Vigo on a free transfer in the Spanish top tier.


In terms of temporary departures, Héctor Villar is the most significant loanee. The £34million player that City bought from Racing Club for £10million last summer has moved back to his home nation of Argentina for the season as he joins Boca Juniors in the Primera División.

Another significant deal is the loaning out of right-back Ton Gorter to join Hoffenheim in the Bundesliga for the season. With the release of Nélson Semedo it was suggested that Gorter would replace Semedo as a back-up option for Mamadi Fernandes, but following the arrival of Rietveld from Hertha Berlin he was sent on loan.

Spanish/English centre-back Colin Hill has also gone on his third consecutive loan spell for the season. After successful spells at Girona and Cardiff in the past, MLS outfit Atlanta United have taken the defender on for the season.

In terms of staff changes, Txiki Begiristain - the man who signed Virtanen for City one year ago - has been sacked from his role of Director of Football.

With staff coming into the club, former Sheffield United forward Billy Sharp has become the U23s assistant manager, Finnish legend Jari Litmanen who complimented Virtanen’s World Cup achievements joins as a first-team coach meanwhile former Juventus striker David Trezeguet joins the club from Tottenham to become a scout at Manchester City.

Scott: They can only do so much at that age, but with focus more on British talent in the English leagues from our scouts, I think I've found a great pair.

eyreplenh: Join in whenever you like buddy! Great to hear you enjoy it :)

TheLFCFan: It's the English premium that English clubs have to pay for that kind of talent. If I'd have left it a couple of years, they'd have been snapped up or gone up in valuation astronomically.

Justice: Decent amount, although I did expect more when I first listed him. Project: Brexit FC is well underway in Manchester!

ImThatSybGuy: I certainly would like to think so, especially with their combined fee! I am also most excited about Halilaj too.

BigMaguire: Halilaj has got everything to progress into a top star in the coming years, especially now working under state of the art facilities!

Jim: Halilaj is definitely the highlight of the pair, whereas Nicholls will find it hard getting into the squad in the next few years with Mbappé at the fore. I'm excited for the pair of them though!

rien102: The workrates and determination are both which could push them further than most!
Incredible to see so many moves being made in the market despite the unprecedented success Aapo had last season. It shows that everyone can always improve, hopefully these deals prove worthwhile for the club!
Lots of business has been conducted over the course of the window. You have done an excellent job in detailing everything as precisely as possible. I can't comment too much on the arrivals, but I trust Virtanen has made the right moves in-order to continue building his legacy at Manchester City. I sense a period of dominance could be in store if the suitable options have been brought in. He's certainly not been shy in getting rid of figures that have certainly had a positive impact throughout the years under Ancelotti etc.

It comes as no surprise to see Litmanen brought into the staff at the club after his compliments about Virtanen as the Finnish national team manager. I think he knew what he wanted and thought complimenting him would land him a job and a significant pay increase. Well done to him on achieving that. ;) Virtanen clearly sees himself as being well than able to construct his own business and therefore has saved a large amount of money in getting rid of Begiristain in the long run. Hopefully it's a decision that he doesn't rue.
A lot of sales and a lot of purchases, let's hope it won't effect the City squad in a bad way. The departure of a legendary players like De Bruyne and Sterling are ofcourse sad, but it leaves an opportunity for new players to take that role
Big money spent and big money received as Aapo looks to reshape his squad. With the majority of the signings being regens, it looks like you're building a young squad for the future. Exciting times for City's fan(s).


With just under one hour left of the summer 2026 transfer window, Manchester City were finally able to complete the deal bringing RB Leipzig’s Henk Schipper to Manchester.

Compromising on RB Leipzig’s £92million release clause, the deal is just short of City’s biggest signing of the summer which brought Adam Robertson from Burnley to the Etihad Stadium for £93million.

The central midfielder came up against his new manager in this summer’s World Cup Final as the Netherlands lost out to Aapo Virtanen’s Finland thanks to a Teemu Savolainen goal.

“I knew this question would come up!” Schipper laughed after being asked about how he feels about working under the man who snatched a World Cup away from him. “I’m a young guy and working under a World Cup winner in itself was a draw for me to come here. I admired his Finland team and his City side last year were simply incredible with that trophy haul. Besides, with the boss leaving Finland I might actually have a chance of winning the World Cup next time!”

The Dutch 22-year-old started out his career at Feyenoord, making his Eredivisie debut in 2021 before finishing his spell at his local club with 54 appearances in all competitions as he joined RB Leipzig in 2024 for a fee of £36million.

He wowed pundits and everyone at the club with his incredible all-round ability with some key assists and goals during his time in Germany.

“I thoroughly believe that Henk is one of the best midfielders in world football right now,” said Aapo Virtanen upon leaving the Etihad Stadium after the deal went through yesterday. “He was on the radar of City scouts prior to my arrival as manager and when I saw him last season and all the way through the World Cup, I knew that he had to come to City.”

Schipper was spotted in the Wembley stands at Manchester City’s Community Shield victory on Sunday as Virtanen bagged his first silverware of the season with his City team defeating Arsenal 7-6 on penalties after 120 minutes level at 1-1.

Schipper will wear the number six shirt for his new club and will be available for the Premier League opener against West Ham United this Saturday.


TheLFCFan: As much as last season was phenomenal, it didn't feel perfect given that most of the squad were not my signings. I really wanted to use this window with a lot of money to mould my own personal success!

Scott: Very hard to go through so many deals, though I did try release pieces of news reports before. I want to create my own squad in my own image at City and as I said to Seb, this way seemed to be the best way of going about it. You can't knock Litmanen for a bit of schmoozing in the press either ;)

ImThatSybGuy: De Bruyne and Sterling will always remain in the hearts of City fans for their successes wherever they go. Time for the others to prove themselves!

Justice: It's a bold strategy to go out and buy a whole bunch of new first-teamers but you're right, the departures are full of the City of old, so in with the new it is!

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