It was news that went somewhat unnoticed during the hectic final hours of the January transfer window, but Manchester City's capture of 18-year-old Ghanaian forward Godsway Donyoh may have been more important than it seemed at first glance.
While he may turn out to be a fine player, Donyoh remains somewhat of an unknown even in his homeland. In signing at Etihad Stadium, however, he becomes the seventh Ghanaian player on the books of the Manchester club and, beyond that, the seventh to join the club from the ever more prestigious Right to Dream Academy in Ghana's Eastern Region.
Right to Dream is a project that began in 1999, founded by former Manchester United African football scout Tom Vernon. A nonprofit charitable organisation, the setup has grown into a multifaceted sports academy and education facility that offers talented youngsters the chance to succeed both in sport and education. According to the Right to Dream website, an incredible 38 academy graduates are studying in either the U.K. or the United States on education scholarships -- a fine achievement. While the facility appears to be in a state of continual expansion, football remains as the core to the academy's activities.
Donyoh and 18-year-old defensive colleague Dominic Oduro, in signing for Manchester City, became the 14th and 15th of the academy's graduates to sign a professional contract in football while, in the past six months, Helsingborgs winger David Accam became the first player to put the academy on the Champions League stage.
Indeed, Sweden has proved an important stepping stone for a couple of the academy's graduates, with 2012 Allsvenskan top scorer Majeed Waris recently completing a big money transfer to Russian giant Spartak Moscow -- following reported interest from Everton.
In 2010, it was central midfielder Mohammed Abu who had begun Manchester City's link with the academy, with the four-time international immediately joining Norwegian side Stromsgodset on loan. Now 21, Abu finds himself on loan at Lorient in France, having failed to make an impact in a loan spell at Rayo Vallecano earlier this season.
His success in Norway, though, opened up the route for several of his successors. Stromsgodset, who surprised many in finishing second in the 2012 Tippeligaen, did so with the help of three Right to Dream graduates in the form of 21-year-old left back Razak Nuhu and the 18-year-old duo of Bismark Adjei-Boateng and Enock Kwakwa -- all on loan from Manchester City. The final member of City's Ghanaian septet, central midfielder Thomas Agyiri, has spent the season on loan at Gil Vicente in Portugal.
As Manchester City look to improve their youth development at all levels, the signing of the best youth talent from around the globe has become a priority. This season alone, Portuguese attacking midfielder Rony Lopes, Spaniard Denis Suárez and Dutch defender Karim Rekik have made their first-team debuts. Elsewhere, the club's academy boasts a Brazil under-17 international in Gabriel Fernando, a Spanish forward signed from Real Madrid in Jose Pozo and a French midfielder, Jules Ntcham, who was the centre of European-wide attention before eventually settling in Carrington.
The club is clearly, like all its major competitors, investing heavily in youth recruitment and development. While the hope will no doubt be that the club's lavish plans for new academy facilities will bring through locally pooled players, it is clear that those sourced from far and wide will also play an important role in the club's medium- to long-term development.
It is at this point that the club's link with Right to Dream becomes interesting. Developing African players can be a difficult task for Premier League sides, with work permit regulation often proving restrictive to their recruitment. While many clubs in Europe have benefited from the continent's vast riches, with France and Belgium at the front of the queue, England has been well and truly trampled over. Given the raw talent on offer, it is a situation that has no doubt annoyed many of the division's foremost power brokers.
Manchester City, though, through use of the loan market, are trying to set about changing the situation and, through their connections with Right to Dream, are able to take an early look at the products of an academy that is proving itself adept as a developer of elite talent on and off the pitch. The wider press attention has, for good reason, been on the big money acquisitions that the 2011-12 Premier League champions have made in recent seasons, which have been startling both in quantity and value. However, for all the immediate impact that big names have brought, it may well be that it is the club's smaller investments in youth that will offer a better long-term return.
For further discussion on any of the players featured in The Scout's Notebook, Christopher Atkins can be found on Twitter @chris_elastico.