EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Rico Lewis, 18, is the Thai-boxing City wonderkid ‘with the hair’ who still lives at home with his mum

By Jack Gaughan For The Mail On Sunday

22:05 11 Nov 2023, up to date 22:47 11 Nov 2023

You are 17 and still at faculty. You have made up the numbers in a couple of coaching periods however no person actually is aware of who you’re. Why would they? Here stands a group of globetrotters assembled by Manchester City. Besides, loads of youngsters are requested as much as assist throughout Pep Guardiola’s tactical run throughs and are successfully mannequins.

But certainly one of Guardiola’s coaches has been in his ear. The supervisor has by no means seen you play however trusts the phrase of Carlos Vicens, an assistant, that there is a teenager who ought to journey with them for pre-season in America. The lad with the hair.

The lad with the hair joined City as a nine-year-old. He had it shaved again then, captained just about each academy staff going and was so good that the membership as soon as signed an opposing winger purely as a result of he had the temerity to provide him a tough time in a junior sport. Rico Lewis, it is now clear, was at all times going to develop into a City participant.

When the likelihood to show that got here, he didn’t fear about impressing the superstars. A narrative that tells all about his character comes from the moist warmth of Houston. For Lewis, his capacity was of secondary concern to the staff’s seating plan. He wished to be the final man to sneak on the coach however failed. He locked eyes with Nathan Ake, sat alone at a desk.

‘When you’re there for the first time, you’re simply looking for a seat,’ he says. ‘You don’t wish to be in anybody else’s. The worst factor is for those who sit someplace after which have to maneuver in entrance of everybody. Things like that, it’s nerve- wracking having to ask.

Rico Lewis has been described as the Thai-boxing City wonderkid who has ‘the hair’
Despite his youth, Lewis is already a Treble-winner at City
Pep Guardiola has frequently relied upon the teenager Lewis in his Manchester City staff
Lewis joined City as a nine-year-old and was so good that the membership signed an opposition winger as a result of he gave the teenager a tricky sport

‘Back then it was a big thing. I was nervous. The quicker I understood they’re simply regular individuals, the simpler it was to be myself.’

Initially, he by no means wished to get in the manner. There have been related social dilemmas in the assembly room for a Guardiola seminar, too. Lewis went straight for the entrance row, reasoning that he is out of sight there with the boss trying over them into the center of the class.

Over a 12 months on, he is still in the entrance row of the auditorium and still subsequent to Phil Foden in the dressing room. It has all gone so effectively that at a comparative age, Lewis has racked up 500 minutes extra sport time than Foden, who has been a major assist behind the scenes.

If Lewis didn’t wish to trigger a scene on the coach, he positively has on the pitch. Some are already calling for England recognition, even when Guardiola is fastidiously managing his improvement.

This season, he has been the standout in away Champions League victories at RB Leipzig and Young Boys. He scored on his skilled debut in opposition to Sevilla 12 months in the past, dad Rick dropping a cone of chips celebrating, and has the three largest medals in membership soccer hanging on his wardrobe at his mum Steph’s home, the place he still lives.

‘I’ve by no means slept with them to be truthful,’ he laughs. ‘Being at home is comforting. I do what I do then go home and still live a normal life, how it was before.’

He is a person of little frill. When the boisterous part of City’s historical past makers booked a non-public jet on the hoof for an evening in Ibiza after Istanbul, Lewis as a substitute spent a quieter one in Manchester with Cole Palmer. The pair will reunite at Stamford Bridge right this moment, one thing each are relishing.

He is pleased with his pesto hen pasta and makes positive to get a minimal of eight hours sleep an evening. His girlfriend is making an attempt to make him learn extra, which he is aware of he must. He craves routine, reminiscing about his grandmother’s Sunday roasts.

Lewis has featured in all competitions underneath Guardiola this season, most prominently in the league
Lewis has develop into a key part of the Guardiola arrange
Lewis is a quiet character – whereas his team-mates went to Ibiza final summer time he spent an evening in Manchester with Cole Palmer

He admits to not having the consideration span to look at movies on Netflix and prefers spending days off out strolling with his mates or searching the Trafford Centre.

He used to play the guitar in main faculty and provides that his grandfather, Dave, has a celeb background.

‘My grandad was a bassist, he went on tour with Oasis,’ Lewis says. ‘He could probably tell you all the stories but I can’t bear in mind. That was certainly one of the causes I began. He’s a giant City fan as effectively, he’s over the moon once I play.’

In his firm, you neglect that right here is a Treble winner of whom City suppose so extremely that they not too long ago handed him a five-year deal. And any individual whose performances in January, when City have been struggling, provoked a revival. Those are Guardiola’s phrases.

A youngster who recurrently performs in three completely different positions — proper again, holding midfield or extra superior as a No 8, typically picked forward of senior internationals. He did all three after they beat Young Boys on Tuesday. The versatility, he says, offers him further alternatives to play, a tactical understanding belying his years too.

‘You could study it [Guardiola’s ways],’ he says. ‘I haven’t, I feel it’s simply how my mind works. Even earlier than the first staff, in my very own head I’ve tried to be two or three steps forward. When he speaks I’m at all times focusing as a lot as I can. It may be essential later. If I don’t bear in mind, it’d hinder me.

‘In those tactical sessions when you’re 16, for those who’re intelligent sufficient you possibly can attempt to perceive sure roles that the supervisor is asking of gamers. I’ve at all times been a tactical individual. Generally in life as effectively, I feel lots about every little thing. I can overthink issues, however that’s no dangerous factor in soccer.’

Guardiola would probably outline himself in a lot the identical manner. ‘I’ve positively obtained OCD. Silly stuff like if I shut the door, I’ll suppose I’ve not locked it. I at all times have my tracksuit out the evening earlier than, no matter once we’re enjoying. Socks, boxers, sneakers, every little thing, so I don’t have to consider it. Just loosen up. Everything needs to be good, in its spot.

‘Mum has taught me to be humble, generally positive about as much as we can. Having respect for people, regardless of whether it’s somebody you want or not. You don’t make a scene.’

If mum has moulded Lewis’ values and character, additionally doing the lengthy journeys to academy tournaments overseas, then dad formed a diminutive teenager into any individual these who know him insist can deal with himself in opposition to anybody, any measurement.

At a comparative age, Lewis has already amassed greater than 500 minutes greater than Phil Foden
Many followers and pundits have felt that Lewis has been outperforming Kalvin Phillips at Man City

The Phoenix Muay Thai boxing gymnasium in Whitefield, a few miles from home close to Bury, is the place Lewis grew up. Rick, a two-time British champion, owns it.

As a toddler, Lewis would potter about and might first bear in mind hitting the pads when he was three. Thirty undefeated fights as a baby, he says proudly. Lewis stopped the bouts when he moved to City’s youth set-up however still trains in Thai boxing.

‘Pre-season this year I was with my dad in the gym,’ he says. ‘It’s a totally completely different sort of health, actually good for steady energy.

‘You’ve at all times obtained to be in your toes, always shifting, shifting your hips. It’s helped massively with stability, particularly enjoying that midfield position with the turning and maintaining your stability. Protecting the ball is a giant factor for the supervisor, individuals who can hold it.’

Lewis typically retains it underneath duress, always focused by the opposition for heavy remedy. Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg’s pursuit of him final January felt significantly nasty, Guardiola lamenting his gamers for not stepping in — one thing Lewis smiles as making him really feel ‘a bit awkward’.

He enacted retribution on Hojbjerg that evening anyway, a seminal second in his fledgling profession. Now he provides pitying gestures in direction of anybody who makes an attempt the identical.

‘Maybe it’s due to my hair, or one thing like that makes individuals aggravated,’ he laughs.  

‘The fighting was never a passion at first,’ he continues. ‘But it became something I genuinely enjoyed. People can die fighting. You’re taught to coach as for those who’re going to battle, which is much like soccer. 

Lewis revealed that he believes he has ‘OCD’ and at all times has his package and tracksuits prepared the evening earlier than
The teenager admitted that self-discipline has at all times been key for him in his improvement

‘Discipline has been key for me. There are a lot of young players who don’t have self-discipline. They peak too early, they suppose they’re the smartest thing. It’s not good for them. They lose focus and there’s an enormous spiral impulsively.’

There doesn’t seem any hazard of that the place he is involved. ‘The Bayern Munich game is the one everyone remembers,’ he says, referring to a pleasant on that tour of America at the home of the Green Bay Packers. ‘I didn’t wish to come on. Even although it’s pre-season, for me it’s large, it’s scary. But as quickly as you begin enjoying, I simply wished to hold on.’

The 10-minute cameo that evening will dwell lengthy in the reminiscence. He was assured on the ball, making a few tackles, after which waltzed previous two gamers into Bayern’s field earlier than crashing the submit from proper again.

In the posh seats, there have been glances. Who is this child? They know now. The lad with the hair. His toes aren’t dangerous both.


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