Manuel Pellegrini praised Kelechi Iheanacho after the young striker netted a hat-trick in Manchester City’s 4-0 FA Cup victory at Aston Villa.
Iheanacho prodded in early and netted a first-half penalty before running through after Villa’s defensive slip to complete his treble after the break.
Sergio Aguero and Iheanacho are City’s only fit strikers with Wilfried Bony struggling with a calf injury and Pellegrini believes the rookie’s goals justify his call not to bring in any new forwards last summer.
He said: “I see him working every day so I know what he can do. Maybe I received some criticism why we didn’t replace Jovetic and Dzeko and I answered we had Kelechi.
“I am not thinking about money, I am thinking we have a young player who is very important for our club. We have good players who are ready to play and you must keep the options. I know we have a player who deserves space in the squad.
“It’s just one game. I am very happy because he improves every week.”
And Pellegrini dropped the biggest hint yet he was ready to include Iheanacho in his Champions League squad ahead of Tuesday’s registration deadline.
He said: “It’s a decision we are going to take this week before the last date. Of course he pushes a lot. We need him because of Bony’s injury.”
Iheanacho added to City TV: “I’m so glad to score a hat-trick, it’s a great day in my life but it’s not the greatest day of my life because I need to keep working hard. This is the starting point of my career so I need to keep going.
“It’s important to get an early goal. The penalty was very good I took my time, it was a very good penalty for me.”
Raheem Sterling added a fourth as City kept their bid to win the quadruple alive with the club fighting for the Barclays Premier League title and Champions League, having already reached the League Cup final.
But Pellegrini said they cannot contemplate a clean sweep.
He added: “I don’t think it’s a good way of thinking. In my first season we won two titles (league and League Cup) and went out in the FA Cup quarter-finals.”