He’s had one of the best football upbringings one could hope for – but Manchester City and Scotland prospect Lewis Fiorini is hoping a spell in the Dutch second tier is the making of him.
A highly-thought of talent at the Etihad, the attack-minded player has been with Manchester City since he was a kid. He now moves to NAC Breda in the Eerste Divisie to try and get a feel for men’s football. His first outing couldn’t have gone any better, making a positive impression from the bench in a 6-1 thrashing of Jong AZ Alkmaar.
It’ll be a brand-new experience in foreign lands for Fiorini this term, but it’s something that has always been on his mind, as he believes it’s key to development.
“Going out on loan is something I’ve had in my head from early on, I’ve always wanted to get out and show people what I can do as young as possible,” Fiorini told NTOF. “Over the last few months I’ve been looking at different clubs and different options. This is the one that myself and Manchester City thought was the best chance.
“There were offers in the UK, in Scotland, but I think the style of play in Holland will suit me. It’s not as physical but it’s still got enough to help you develop. There’s also a lot more emphasis on the technical side compared to the lower leagues of England. When you go back having played 25-30 first-team games, they read a lot into that.
“You need to step into men’s football at some stage so you might as well try at the first opportunity. If it doesn’t go well out here, I go back to Manchester, I’m only 19. It should toughen me up so I think it’s a big chance to develop.
“I just want to get as much first-team football as I can. 38 league games is a long season but if I can get 20-25 of them I’ll be happy. Obviously I want to play every game but I hope that I can get my chance as soon as possible. I want to help the team as much as I can, score goals, and hopefully get promoted.”
Where better for Fiorini to learn his trade than at one of football’s big players in the modern game? Growing up as a City fan just like his dad, the 18-year-old has been well-accustomed to the success around the Manchester club over the last decade. He knows it hasn’t always been this easy for the Citizens, his dad telling stories of Maine Road and the like, so he’s grateful for what he’s got at his boyhood club.
Whilst mainly training with the youth teams, Fiorini got a big chance after football returned from its enforced break. He spent about 10 weeks training with the senior side at Manchester City, an invaluable experience for someone so young. There are few that get to work with such esteemed players like Sergio Aguero and coaches like Pep Guardiola, but Scotland’s promising attacker did so at 18.
He’s watched the likes of Phil Foden, Jadon Sancho and Eric Garcia rise to first-team football at the elite level in such a short space of time. Players like these are an inspiration for Fiorini, as he provides a glimpse into first-team life at Manchester City.
“When they went back on June 1 I was lucky enough to train with the first-team until they flew out to Lisbon for the Champions League, so that was about 10 weeks,” said Fiorini. “Without playing games I felt like I learned so much. I could feel myself getting better with the players around me.
“The difference between the youth and first-team at City Is massive. I think at other clubs it would be a bit less. The jump’s crazy, there are top players in City’s youth teams but there are 20 world-class players in the first-team. You’ve got to be on it every minute, that was the first time I’d been in the setup consistently.
“Every day Pep’s right at it. Even the day after they beat Real Madrid in the Champions League, he’s still the same intensity. He enjoys winning but he never stops. Off the pitch not so much but the second he steps onto the park, he’s proper full on. Off the park he doesn’t speak about football much, he just tries to be calm. But when he steps on the pitch it’s a different story.
“De Bruyne… he looks like he’s going to lose the ball then he pulls a pass out of nowhere! David Silva was so good. Two seasons ago no one could get near City but Liverpool ran away with it last season. Guys like Phil Foden and Eric Garcia are an inspiration. Phil’s been at City as long as I can remember and in my team we’ve watched him grow from a little boy to a regular member of the senior team.
“That’s the motivation right in front of you. The same for Eric, he came in a bit later, but we’ve watched him progress and play a lot of games over the last season. Phil’s been called into the England squad so he’s done so well.
“He’s had times where he hasn’t played as much as he’s wanted to and seen lads like Jadon Sancho move away and play, Phil’s had to be patient. But with David Silva leaving, he should have a great chance to play most weeks.
“I didn’t play with Sancho but I trained with him a few times. He was two years older but was in Phil’s age group. When they were 17 they were both in the first-team system, but one chose to go down one path and one chose the other. But they’ve both done very well.”
Whilst born and raised in England, Fiorni made the decision to commit to Scotland at a young age and has played at most levels in the Scotland youth structure from U16s up, and he may get another promotion to add shortly. He’s been called into the U21s squad by Scot Gemmill as the City talent continues to climb the national ladder.
He’s explained how he qualifies for Scotland duty, telling of how proud it makes him and his family to pull on the navy blue, despite being brought up south of the border. Fully implementing himself into that U21s squad is also on the checklist for this term.
“My grandmother is Scottish, but unfortunately I never met her as she passed away when my dad was young,” Fiorini explained. “A link is there! My Scotland debut was at U16s, I’ve played some games for the U17s and last season I played for the U19s.
There’s probably an element of that (more chance of reaching the Scotland first-team) but I’m still as proud to play for Scotland because it also represents my family. It doesn’t take anything away from that I was born and grew up in England. It’s still a massive thing for myself and my family.
“The squad announcements show the pathway is there and that’s your motivation. When you’re in one squad, you want to be in the next. I played with U19s last season and U21s is my aim this season. If I have a good season in men’s football, I don’t see why I can’t break into that squad.”