Phil Foden: With the world at his feet, Manchester City must build its team around him

The clock showed 75 minutes when Manchester City had one foot in the Champions League semi-final. Only one, because their opponents had looked lively all game. There was every chance that they would stare at another quarter-final exit, a stage they had never gotten past under manager Pep Guardiola.

Borussia Dortmund needed only one goal to level the tie, and with Erling Haaland and company in the mood, there was every chance of City bottling it again.

And then, up stepped Philip Foden.

The world is at Foden's feet' - Man City star is a future Ballon d'Or  contender, says Goater |
Phil Foden (pictured) is one of the best youngsters in world football today. Source:

The 21-year-old, who had already scored a last-minute winner to steal the tie from Black and Yellow, popped up again. This time, he let loose a thunderbolt from the edge of the box with fifteen minutes to go. Seconds later, he raced to the touchline to celebrate with his manager, a man so pumped to break his quarter-final hoodoo.

Meteoric rise

It was symbolic, a sign that talent was there in spades, and what we were looking at was a generational player. There is always the talk of English media overhyping their players, but when you displace Raheem Sterling from the starting lineup, score in both legs of a Champions League quarter-final, and can play in any attacking role, you are special indeed.

Foden is that special player, and it is a bloody joy to watch him.

‘The Stockport Iniesta’, as he is called, bleeds blue, having risen from the club’s academy. He is one of Man City’s own, and luckily, is one they can build their future around. This season, he has been nothing short of a revelation. It was completed with tons of goals and assists, phenomenal all-round play, and recognitions as PL Young Player of the Season and a player in the UEFA Champions League Squad of the Season.

Foden cannot even legally do some things in some countries, yet he displays a footballing brain and maturity far beyond his years. When Guardiola of all people hails you as the successor to David Silva at City, that is massive praise. Going by his performances, you can say it is justified. Credit to the Catalan manager for being patient with the youngster and easing him into the team.

A left-footed player, Foden’s versatility is what makes him stand out. Although technically a central midfielder, he can also play as a wide midfielder, classic No. 10, winger on either side, false-9 or even as a wing-back. Yes, comparisons to Steven Gerrard are not exaggerated statements. A fantastic stat about Foden is that at the age of 20, he scored 21 goals in 93 appearances. For comparison, that’s a better rate than Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Xavi, Iniesta and Zinedine Zidane.

Here for a good time, and a long time

It is no surprise, then, that Foden is one of the first names on City’s team sheet. Recently, the team has been playing without a proper striker. This means technically sound midfielders are required to create chances and finish them, and Foden makes the cut. All his traits contribute to City’s winning machine, whether it is his workrate, chance creation, dribbling or finishing. He has also proven himself to be a big game player, as evidenced by his exploits against Borussia Dortmund. He has also scored goals against Liverpool, Arsenal and Everton.

Foden is not a physical specimen. He is also not strong and imperious. However, his dexterity and tight, adhesive control means he just drifts past opponents. It is one thing to be a star young player, but to be one of his silky skill and inventive quality is something else. He is astoundingly complete for a young player, and you can bet time will only further his development.

At the time of writing, Foden started for England in the Euros against Croatia. He looks to be an indispensable figure for his country as well. England’s “it’s coming home” is legitimately a meme now, but this time, they have the most star-studded attacking talent in the world. At the top of that is Foden, and he will look to inspire England to an international trophy. He may be sporting a Paul Gascoigne haircut, but he will look to emulate his heroics as will.

Would Foden start for the top teams in football? You could say so. Can he play the role of super-sub if he doesn’t start? Most certainly. Does he make a difference when he plays? Absolutely. He oozes class with the ball at his feet, and when you factor in his age, it is frightening to think about what he could become.

The Haalands and the Mbappés might be grabbing all the headlines, but Foden is up there with them as the next big things in world football. Whisper it quietly, but if he maintains his form and fitness, we might be looking at an all-timer in the Englishman. Then, finally, he won’t be the next Silva or Iniesta, but the one and only Phil Foden.

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