City open £200m training complex
Patrick Vieira believes Manchester City's new £200million training complex will help the club attract the best young players in the world - starting with the city itself.
The Barclays Premier League champions have been based at the state-of-the-art City Football Academy since October, but officially opened the doors on Monday at a glitzy ceremony attended by club greats and Chancellor George Osborne.
Vieira, who runs City's elite development squad, spent his playing days at the likes of Arsenal, Juventus and Inter Milan, but believes his new workplace puts the rest firmly in the shade.
And with competition for the brightest young players increasingly stiff among European football's biggest teams, he thinks City are now at the head of the queue.
Fans of neighbours Manchester United, though, might bristle at his suggestion that local prospects now face an "easy choice" when it comes to their career path.
"When we started training here with the boys I looked around and said 'how amazing'. I think this is one of the best, if not the best, facilities in the world," he said of the 80-acre base that was previously a polluted brownfield site.
"If we go into the market and we compete to bring young players or first team players in, having a facility like this can only help.
"When you are a young, talented player from Manchester - or worldwide - you want the best possible facilities to challenge and improve yourself.
"(You want) the club that will give you the best chance because at that age you dream about being a first-team player and I think when you look at these facilities that will be an easy choice.
"You can't compare this to any other. Arsenal was really good, Inter was really good, but I think this training facility takes it to a different level."
The complex is connected to the Etihad Stadium by bridge and houses all of the club's teams, from age-group sides to men's and women's senior squads - a total in excess of 450 individuals weekly.
The first team will stay on site the night before home matches, while Vieira's elite development squad team and Manchester City Women will play at an integrated 7,000-capacity stadium.
But for some the true success of the project will only be measured in future by graduates from the youth set-up to the first XI.
Vieira is intimately involved in helping deliver a target of four-to-six homegrown players in the senior side and is optimistic the CFA will accelerate the process.
"We know how difficult it will be for them to make it but we have to fulfill the potential," he said.
"We have a responsibility to them and when you have a facility like this you give youth all the chance to make it.
"Of course it is important because fans like to identify with the local players.
"Seventy per cent of our Academy players are from Manchester. I look at my team in the EDS and the captain Kean Bryan was born five minutes from the stadium.
"But when we talk about development it takes time. We have a clear idea of how we want to develop these young players and now we have to be patient, work hard and see who will be the next elite player."
City chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak, who escorted Osborne on a tour, believes the opening represents the first stage of fulfilling a promise made when the Abu Dhabi United Group took over six years ago.
"At the outset of his ownership, back in autumn 2008, His Highness Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan set out his vision for the future of Manchester City Football Club," said Khaldoon.
"He pledged to bring success on the field and to nurture young talent, whilst at the same time remaining proudly rooted to the community in which it resided.
"The cornerstone of the future, was a vision for youth development and sustainability; a vision to educate talented young footballers on and off the pitch and to do so in a facility supported by the best coaches and coaching programmes. The vision was underpinned by an unwavering commitment to the regeneration of the local area in both economic and environmental terms.
"Today marks the beginning of a responsibility to deliver against the opportunities that this Academy now creates for us."
Osborne, who used the platform to announce a £50million five-year government investment in grassroots football, hailed the CFA development as a model example for others to follow.
"I am a strong believer in improving sporting facilities for young people, which is why I am delighted to oversee the opening of the City Football Academy," he said.
"The partnership between Abu Dhabi United Group and Manchester City Council is a benchmark for public private partnership, driving investment into the north of England and developing projects where business and the community benefit."