Sports Football 03 Oct 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup: ...

FIFA U-17 World Cup: Pep Guardiola's unearthed gem Phil Foden is a star in the making

DECCAN CHRONICLE. | NICOLAI NAYAK
Published Oct 3, 2017, 4:33 pm IST
Updated Oct 3, 2017, 4:47 pm IST
Manchester City and England playmaker, Phil Foden, who is set to take stage at the World Cup, hasn't garnered the attention he deserves.
The Englishman could emerge as the next biggest thing in English football. (Photo: AFP)
 The Englishman could emerge as the next biggest thing in English football. (Photo: AFP)

Manchester: ‘I don’t have the right words to describe what I saw. It’s a long time since I saw something like this. His performance was another level. He’s 17-years-old, he’s a City player, he grew up in the academy, he loves the club, he’s a City fan and for us, he’s a gift,” said Pep Guardiola after he was blown away with Phil Foden’s performance against Manchester United in the pre-season tour of the US this year.

The Manchester City boss always has a tendency to boast effusively about his players, even at Barcelona and Bayern Munich. When in charge at Bayern Munich, the ex-Catalan boss stated he would love to have 1,000 Dantes in his side. And guess what? Guardiola sold the Brazilian centre-back to VFL Wolfsburg just 10 days later.

But there’s something about Foden that has caught the eye of Guardiola. Against Manchester United, he almost displayed that he could play effortlessly in a David Silva-esque fashion, with those silken passes, delightful touches and his vision.

The Spaniard was so pleased with him that he even featured Foden in the games against Real Madrid, Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United. But what makes this boy so special?

Having been with the Citizens for 7 years running, Foden is a rare breed in English football, changing perceptions about the type of playmakers the country can produce.

Manchester City U-18 academy boss Lee Carsley has played an influential part in increasing Foden's stock. Last season, the Stockport-born lad was majorly deployed as a centre-half, dictating the tempo of the game, controlling possession, linking up play. But he even shouldered the role of a central attacking midfielder with aplomb.

England's U-17 manager Steve Cooper, however, favours to use him on the right flank, but that doesn’t stop Foden from venturing into his favoured no.10 role, distributing through balls to the forwards with an eye of a needle.

Such is his talent that Foden has already built a reputation for delivering in big games. The 17-year-old was a vital cog in Manchester City’s FA Cup campaign in 2016, scoring against Stoke City and Chelsea in the semis and the finals respectively. The English playmaker also stamped his class during the Euro U-17 tournament in May, netting against eventual champions Spain, who pipped Cooper’s boys on penalties.

Needless to say, Foden is a big-match player and the maturity he’s shown has already earned him a chance to be a part of a star-studded Manchester City side. Guardiola, who has been successful in blossoming prodigies from Barcelona’s La Masia academy, is now trying to fit Foden in his own mould, and it’s easy to see why.

It's easy to find players good with a ball at their feet, but Foden equally excels with his off the ball movement. The hallmark of his game is quick two-touch passing, that makes him difficult to disposes even in tight areas.

Dropping into pockets of space, Foden bamboozles markers with his runs, making a half-turn or even cutting in. And when presented with a glaring opportunity, he splits a killer pass or takes a shot on goal with his cultured left-foot.

His ability to manipulate the ball in such a way and read the game with such ease has already drawn him comparisons to Manchester City’s orchestrator-in-chief David Silva.

Perhaps his traits are so similar to the Spaniard, that he even labelled the Spaniard as his idol. Foden’s jaw-dropping technical skills are a treat, but his composure on the ball is something that goes missing even with elite players.

At a tender age, Foden is already everything he could be and is already living the dream every footballer wishes for – playing for their boyhood club.

Manchester City spending spree in the past two years has seen the club splash over £150 million just on 4 homegrown players, but with Foden already waiting in the wings, the Englishman could emerge as the next biggest thing in English football.

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