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Cole Palmer’s impact at Manchester City is gradually affirming the club’s decision to invest £42 million in securing his services. Since his arrival last summer, Palmer has showcased immense talent and potential, making significant contributions to the team’s success

Cole Palmer looked forward to one game more than any other when he looked at his new schedule after leaving Manchester City for Chelsea in the summer. Palmer goes back to the Etihad this weekend with a point to make for that game.


Palmer had been a backup player for the first two seasons, but last year he made the jump from the academy to the main team. He played well in the cups, but when he got a chance in the Premier League, he often failed to make the most of it. He looked like a young player who was torn between showing himself and putting down his natural desire to attack so that Pep Guardiola could keep the ball.


The winger was a big part of England’s U21 European Championship win over the summer. He then scored important equalisers in the Community Shield and UEFA Super Cup when he returned to City. He was ready to take the lead, but he knew that there wouldn’t be many chances at the Etihad. When he said he might leave after the Super Cup win in Athens, it was clear what would happen.


When the due date came around, the choice was made. Palmer had a good deal from Chelsea, and City didn’t get in the way of him. When a player of Palmer’s skill and promise left, it was sad, but everyone knew Palmer wouldn’t get the playing time he wanted if he stayed. For a player who had only started three Premier League games, £42 million was a good price.


Palmer left City having played in 41 games and scored six goals, but none in the league. After his famous FA Cup goal against Swindon in 2022, he said, “Prem soon come,” which meant that his first Premier League goal was on the way. That goal wouldn’t come to him until he left City.


Palmer hasn’t looked back since he moved to Stamford Bridge. He scored the first goal and now has 10 goals and six helpers in the league. A return of 12 goals and 9 assists in 28 games is something he never thought he’d get, and City may not have been ready for such an effect so quickly. They learned the hard way when Palmer stepped up at Stamford Bridge to score a penalty in extra time during the exciting 4–4 draw earlier this season.


Palmer says that he wants to show that City was wrong to let him go before he goes back to the Etihad. “Let’s see. I try to do that every game. “It will be a tough game,” he said in his usual low-key way.


His leaving had nothing to do with minutes. He has started 16 Premier League games for Chelsea this season, including 15 of the last 16 games he has been able to play. He is one minute shy of 1,500 minutes played in the league. Over the course of the Carabao Cup, he started all eight games in the competition. He didn’t just turn down the chance to play for City; he made Chelsea put his name at the top of the team sheet.


He’s earned all the praise he’s getting, as well as the chance to play for England at the end of the season. City won’t be surprised at all to see one of their school graduates shine from regular starts, but they’ll also know that he wouldn’t have had those chances at the Etihad.


In the same way, City is seeing Brahim Diaz do well at Real Madrid. He is doing well in La Liga and the Champions League after getting a run of games. He did well at AC Milan, but Jadon Sancho did even better at Borussia Dortmund. They will know that there is a good chance the young player will do well at their new club if they let them go because they want more played time. That’s why the club wants big sell-on clauses and buy-back choices along with high transfer fees.


Palmer has already played three times as much in the Premier League in the six months since he left City. He would not have even come close to that much under Pep Guardiola. So far this season, only three players have played more league minutes for City than him. They are Julian Alvarez (1,941 minutes), Phil Foden (1,865 minutes), and Bernardo Silva (1,512 minutes). All three have spent a lot of time in the middle of the pitch, not on the wing where Palmer would have played.


If he had stayed, Jack Grealish, Jeremy Doku, and Oscar Bobb would have been his major rivals. Doku has 976 minutes, Grealish has 702, and Bobb has 112. Guardiola has changed his formation so that his wingers are now playing on the opposite side. This term, the usual wide player is being used less.


Palmer may have been in the same rank as Doku or Bobb. Doku started 14 times in all events, while Bobb started three times but not in the league. No matter what the possibilities were, he wouldn’t have started 15 games in a row. At City, no one does that unless their name is Ederson, Rodri, Kevin De Bruyne, or Erling Haaland.


If you tried to pass the ball to him, he wouldn’t have scored any of the five penalties he missed at City. Bobb is a young player who has helped set up more Premier League goals in seven substitute starts (one goal and one assist) than Palmer did in two seasons (one assist). Palmer and City have not looked back.


Palmer isn’t always showing City to be wrong, then. They knew all about his skills and what would happen if they let those skills go to someone else. If anything, the high transfer fee for a player with little experience shows them to be right. How many other young players who have played in the Premier League for 24 months but haven’t scored would bring in more than £40 million?


People should be happy to see him back on Saturday as a success story from the school, not as someone who got away. City has always known he could do this. It’s just a shame he’s doing it in a royal blue shirt instead of a sky blue one.

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