With Declan Rice having finally made the switch from East to North London, West Ham have a £100m war chest with which to refresh their aging squad this summer, and in 18-year-old winger Carlos Borges they couldn’t have found a more exciting young player to pin their hopes on ahead of next season. The jewel in the crown of Manchester City’s academy, Borges exploded onto the scene last season, recording 33 goals and assists in just 24 appearances. Merely a bit-part player as City lifted the PL2 trophy in 2022, Borges’s growth in the last year speaks to his limitless potential. Now a two-time league champion at youth level, the Portuguese youngster looks more than ready to step up to senior football.
Blessed with a burst of pace and an eye for goal, Borges will add energy and incision to West Ham’s frontline, and with Lucas Paqueta finding form towards the end of last season, the pair have the potential to form one of the deadliest partnerships in the league. His chemistry with fellow academy prospect Oscar Bobb was a major factor behind City lifting the PL2 title last year, and he seems to develop these partnerships all over the pitch. A lot of Borges’s best work comes when he uses his teammates as bounce boards, playing one-two’s at the edge of the box before spinning in behind and collecting possession inside the area.
An unpredictable presence inside the box, Borges understands when to take the ball on and test the keeper and when to slow play down and wait for options. The ability to change the pace of a move in an instant is one of the most sought-after traits in young forwards, and Borges has perfected this. Borges’ shot selection is varied, and he always keeps the goalkeeper guessing where he wants to place the ball. If West Ham can get players around him to facilitate his movement and pace, then his appreciation of space and calmness in front of goal should prove a real asset.
There will, of course, be questions over whether Borges can replicate the form he has shown in the academy. He can be guilty of chasing his touch, relying on his pace to make up the ground when he pushes the ball out of his feet, and with the step up to senior football, he won’t be afforded the same sort of space he’s used to. West Ham and David Moyes don’t have the best track record when it comes to recruiting forwards, either. But with City set to retain a buy-back clause in Borges’ contract, it seems Pep Guardiola is confident in his ability to make the step up.
Having seemingly beaten the likes of Brighton and Nottingham Forest to his signature, West Ham look to have kicked off their recruitment drive with one of the coups of the summer. Whilst Borges becomes the latest in a long line of departures from City’s academy, joining James Trafford and Shea Charles in the search for regular minutes this season.
By: Sam Tabuteau / @TabuteauS
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / James Gill – Danehouse / Getty Images