Manchester City held their nerve in the final weeks of the Premier League season to be crowned 2013-14 English champions after a 2-0 win over West Ham on the final day of the season.
The Etihad Stadium side’s mission will be to translate their domestic title success into European glory next season, with Manuel Pellegrini’s men widely expected to continue to splash the cash this summer.
With international stars across the board, City players will have a considerable presence at this summer’s World Cup. However, it could well be that one slightly unknown defender has the chance to prove to his club employers that he has what it takes to be a regular fixture next season.
Karim Rekik was somewhat unexpectedly named in Louis van Gaal’s preliminary Netherlands squad for the competition in Brazil after impressing this term on loan at PSV Eindhoven.
Although the 19-year-old is not assured of a place on the plane to South America just yet, there is every chance that he can sneak into the final contingent.
With key Dutch midfielder Kevin Strootman absent due to injury, Van Gaal is widely expected to switch to a 5-3-2 system to make up for the Roma star’s unavailability.
This will mean that extra centre-halves will be needed at the tournament, with Rekik having every chance to feature.
Looking at the teenager’s competition for a place in the Oranje’s starting XI suggests that the City man has a great chance to play a role for his nation this summer.
Only Ron Vlaar is an experienced and established option, with the likes of Ajax’s prodigious talent Joël Veltman and Stefan de Vrij also included.
Rekik joined Manchester City from Feyenoord’s youth system back in 2011 but has only had one chance to play for the senior side in the Premier League.
Loan spells at Portsmouth and Blackburn Rovers gave the versatile defender added opportunities for game time in England over recent years, but it was not until the season just gone that Rekik has been afforded regular first-team football.
The 19-year-old started 25 Eredivisie games for PSV in 2013-14 and played a significant role in helping the Philips Stadion outfit finish fourth and qualify for Europe.
The defender has shown confidence on the ball and physical abilities that suggest that he is ready to be given a chance to play in the Premier League.
Following representing Netherlands at under-17 and 19 level, Rekik made his senior international bow earlier in the year and is clearly a player that is part of the long-term vision for the next generation of the national side.
City have quality all over the pitch, but centre-half has been one area of contention of late. Vincent Kompany has had an array of defensive partners over the last 24 months, with a solution that can play a consistent role in the side in future years yet to be determined.
Martín Demichelis has been the usual incumbent of the spot and grew into English football as the season progressed. However, at 33 the Argentinian will not be around forever, and younger players are needed to fit the bill.
Joleon Lescott will leave the club after his contract expires this summer, while Matija Nastasić had a frustrating campaign due to injuries and lack of chances to play.
Although there is every likelihood that City will go out and spend big to bring a defender of experience to Manchester this summer, it appears that the promising Rekik has a role to play for the English champions.
Experience in the World Cup would be a real fillet for the young star, who looks to have a very bright future in the game.