Cole Palmer has a McDonald’s hamburger in his hands as he prepares for his first newspaper interview. He takes a bite before handing the box to his agent. He looks to everyone like a normal 20-year-old from Manchester.
He is, but he is also the striker that Pep Guardiola described as ‘special’ and the player who aims to be Manchester City’s next superstar.
But right now, he’s not happy with his rating in the FIFA 23 video game. “Sixty-seven… it could have been a little higher,” says Palmer. sports mail. When asked in which areas he would have liked a better score, he replies: ‘All of them!’
Talented prospect Cole Palmer is expected to be Manchester City’s next superstar
Palmer enjoys playing FIFA, but is not happy with his current rating on the game.
It is clear from the first minutes of this interview that Palmer is a reserved and down-to-earth young man. His personality off the field contrasts with his performances on it. Anyone who has seen him live will recognize that he is a confident, mature and extremely talented player.
Palmer has made 21 first-team appearances, having made his debut in 2020. A first senior goal in the EFL Cup last year was quickly followed by his first in the Champions League. In January he was man of the match, as he scored and assisted in an FA Cup third round tie in Swindon.
His goal that night led to one of the best post-game interviews of last season. “I’m delighted, Prem will be coming soon,” Palmer told ITV cameras, referring to the fact that he only had the league left to break. Fans loved the nonchalant response from him. He was even seen by a fan wearing a “Prem Soon Come” T-shirt on City’s pre-season tour of the United States.
“If you’re from my area, what I said wasn’t like, crazy,” Palmer laughs. ‘But to everyone else they might think, “What is he talking about?” It’s just slang where I’m from. I didn’t think much of it, but then it just blew up and I was like, “Oh my days!” Everyone was laughing about it.
Palmer has already impressed for City and has his sights set on becoming a first-team regular.
Palmer’s earliest soccer memories are training with his father every night at the local park. “He would teach me things I didn’t know how to do,” says Palmer. “The first thing we did was protect the ball. From then on, just shoot.
‘Put him in the net and I would throw the ball to him. It was fine, but now I would destroy him if I played against him!
Despite his slim build, Palmer is deceptively tall, standing at 6 feet 2 inches. But growing up, the striker was the smallest player on his team, not that it hindered his development.
“When I was little, I used to want to be big so that I could surpass everyone,” says Palmer. “There was a kid across the street when I was little, who was older than me and he was pretty good at soccer.
“I was talking to my dad not long ago and we were saying if he didn’t live there, I probably wouldn’t be as good as I am because he was bigger than me. I had to learn to play soccer. Now that I’m older, I’ve realized that it was probably better if it worked like this.
Palmer can’t remember how he was discovered by City at the age of eight, but he thinks it must have been at a local tournament. His memories of going from the quarry to training with the first team are clearer.
Palmer came through Man City’s academy and is now a regular part of the matchday squad.
He says, “I just walked up there thinking, ‘I’m here now, I might as well try to do something,'” Palmer says casually. ‘Since I started training there I have stayed there. If you play with the best players, you’re only going to get better. I just enjoy it. It is a challenge.
‘It’s a difficult leap to make because academy football is completely different. Even how you shoot and stuff, the difference is unbelievable. But in terms of the way we played, it was pretty close to the same patterns in Under 23s.
‘It helps, but it’s still not an easy transition. Over time I felt more comfortable.’
Training with Erling Haaland has also helped. Unlike the Premier League defenders, Palmer sees a different side to the Norwegian. “He’s a little bit more relaxed in training,” says Palmer. “But yeah, when it comes to game day, he just beats them up.”
Palmer’s close control, precise passing and impressive dribbling make him the perfect Pep player. He laughs off the suggestion that they are a match made in heaven, but says the 51-year-old has already had a huge impact on his development.
“First of all, giving me opportunities to play, advice on the training ground, what to do best,” says Palmer. “You can see what he does with the players and how he improves them, so when he talks to me, I try to get as much out of him as I can.” When he does his meetings, 99 percent of the time they always hit the nail on the head. He’s a little crazy!
Guardiola seems to be applying the same approach to Palmer as he did to Phil Foden, who stayed at City to develop rather than go on loan. Foden worked his way into the first team little by little, despite the clamor from the supporters for him to start every week, and Palmer has taken confidence in his team-mate’s progress.
Palmer enjoys learning from legendary manager Pep Guardiola every day in training.
“He’s shown me there’s a way there, but even if he didn’t make it to the first team, I would have believed he could.” Seeing someone do it gives you a bit of hope because it’s always nice to see it.’
Since moving to the Etihad campus in 2014, City have built one of the best academies in the country. But it was Palmer who finally delivered the silverware two years ago. After missing the decisive penalty in the 2018-2019 FA Youth Cup Final against Liverpool, Palmer scored a late goal as City beat Chelsea 3-2 a year later. In an emotional tribute, Palmer dedicated the goal to his former teammate Jeremy Wisten, who had taken his own life a month earlier. It was the first time the club had won the competition in 12 years and ended a run of four consecutive final defeats.
“You know what it’s like when you lose a pen, it’s obviously not nice,” says Palmer. “I was upset, but it’s one of those things, just move on.” The year after, I didn’t even think about the other game and I scored the winning goal. It was only afterward that I thought, ‘Oh yeah, I missed last year and I just scored the game-winner.’
Palmer signed a new contract with City last year that will keep him at the club until 2026. Describing his short and long-term plans, Palmer says: “I want to play for City’s first team regularly and win trophies and I hope to play for England in big tournaments.’
If you achieve all of that, there’s a good chance you’ll see a boost in your FIFA rating.
Cole Palmer was at a McDonald’s Ultimate gaming event to celebrate the release of McCrispy. The chicken burger will be on the menu starting October 19.