There are rave reviews in every newspaper for Phil Foden after he danced a jig on Liverpool’s grave. He earned them too. His second-half display at Anfield was proof that there exists, for the first time since Wayne Rooney, an English footballer blessed with indisputably world-class talent… okay, I don’t feel too queasy saying that.
In the last 30 years, England has produced a few world-class defenders but hardly any attack-minded players who can hang with the best around. There’s Gazza, despite his flaws. Shearer? Maybe. Rooney, definitely. That’s about it. (When I say world-class, I don’t mean can they play at international level and look decent. I’m talking about players who might get into a Planet Earth first team.)
We’ve had to wait for Foden to arrive. Not long, but in this era of instant gratification, long enough to become restless: does Pep not fancy Foden? I thought he raved about him only last year!? Why isn’t he picking this World Cup-winning teenager for every Premier League and Champions League match? Don’t tell me Foden will have to leave City to play for a manager who ‘gets’ him?
And Guardiola would roll his eyes, pray for patience – his own in the face of monotonous questioning from journalists, and surely Foden’s too.
We can all agree now that Guardiola has managed – is managing – Foden’s development perfectly. By the way, should we be surprised? Look at how he has nurtured other players such as Raheem Sterling and Kevin de Bruyne – how many other managers would have kept Sterling and De Bruyne happy all of this time? There hasn’t been a peep of dissatisfaction from either. Or John Stones – dropped but never made to feel unwanted. Now imagine what Jose Mourinho might have done with Stones. Shudder.
Foden’s Premier League appearances season by season:
2017/18: 5 (43 minutes of playing time)
2018/19: 13 (327 mins)
2019/20: 23 (892 mins)
2020/21: 17 so far (1,023 mins)
You can see the gradual, careful progression here. Even though we’re only just over halfway through the season, Foden has already played more minutes in the league than he did in the 2019/20 season. And I think I’m right in saying, he’s never been booked in the Premier League.
Listen to Guardiola on Foden after the thumping of Liverpool last night: “We know what a huge talent he is but he is still young and hopefully he can understand he can still improve.”
That is one of the most exciting things about Foden. He is 20 years old: he should improve significantly. And Pep is the perfect manager to oversee that improvement. England, be thankful.
How it started How it’s going pic.twitter.com/QUfHqjxuAP
— Phil Foden (@PhilFoden) February 7, 2021