When head coach Jason Kreis wanted to sign a left-back for New York City FC the options were plentiful. City Football Group boasts arguably the most wide-ranging and robust scouting network in world football.
Kreis could easily have spent days studying DVDs of players, but the one he had in mind was much closer to home. In the lead-up to taking up his role as head coach at NYCFC Kreis spent six months living in Manchester. The aim was to immerse himself in all things Manchester City, and it was while there he came to know of Angelino.
The player joined NYCFC midway through the 2015 MLS season and on the surface it was surprising. Angelino was one of City’s brightest prospects, but with their sister-club needing a left-back and the Spaniard needing game time it appeared symbiotic.
“It was an interesting time when he came in,” Jeb Brovsky, a teammate of Angelino’s at NYCFC told Oddschecker. “My wife had our first child that July, and so I was away from the team for a couple of weeks. When I came back that was my first time meeting him. I couldn’t pin how young he was. He had a way about him, a kind of swagger, that made him seem a little bit more mature than his age. He walked in like he belonged right away and I could tell he was a confident young player.
“His quality was there from the beginning too. As some of the English guys I played with would say, he has a wand of a left foot. He’s very good in tight spaces, it was clear he could strike a ball. His technique was at a very high level. I think he came in and he gave a dynamic piece to the left-back position that probably wasn’t there before.”
Angelino’s season in New York was tough. By the time he arrived the team had just three league wins, and the expectation to hit the ground running weighed heavy on the group, with Andrea Pirlo, Frank Lampard and David Villa expected to lead the team to victory. Amid those struggles, the defender stood out as a rare bright spot.
“He was always looking for challenges and I could tell he just loved the ball,” Brovsky said. “He wanted to be on the ball at all times. After training, we’d do some competition stuff and he’d always have fun with trick shots or challenge David Villa in a crossbar challenge or who could hit the post and go in.”
By November, Kreis and Angelino had both left NYCFC. Kreis was dismissed that month for what the club described as a ‘disappointing campaign’. Meanwhile, Angelino returned to Manchester and come January he made his debut for the first team during an FA Cup tie against Aston Villa.
He would make two further appearances for City in 2016 in the Champions League and EFL Cup before being sent out on loan to Spanish side Girona in January 2017. His time there was brief, however, and after failing to make an appearance he joined Real Mallorca on the last day of the January window.
He would enjoy one final loan spell while at City joining NAC Breda ahead of the 2017-2018 season. He finished that campaign in the Eredivisie Team of the Year which convinced PSV Eindhoven to move for him last summer where he has once again shone.
Last season no defender in the Eredivisie contributed more assists, created more big chances or completed more dribbles than Angelino as he was once again named in the Team of the Year while also earning the Young Player of the Year award.
Perhaps then it is unsurprising he is expected to return to Man City via a buy-back clause City inserted into the deal with PSV (reports vary on the exact price). His future from there is unclear, with reports suggesting he could be part of Pep Guardiola’s first team plans next season.
“That’s why it’s not surprising to me [that he’s doing well],” Brovsky said. “The big stage never really seemed like it affected him whatsoever. I’m thinking of players I grew up with, or myself, at that age I was always feeling it out if I was in a big locker room. He had a different sense to him, he was kind of just like, I’m here, I’m the man I’m going to prove myself right away.”
That first step in New York played an important role in making Angelino. A return to Manchester would be another fascinating turn for the defender who got his start in the Big Apple and left a strong impression while he was there.
“I think his confidence has shown with PSV,” Brovsky said. “I’ve seen a couple of his games and it looks like he’s matured a lot. I hope I do see him as a left back for Man City, but I knew there was something about him as soon as he came into New York.”