Here at SHOOT we endeavour to keep a watchful eye over the emerging talents in world football and keep you in the know in terms of who you should be watching out for in the years to come.
Following last month’s edition on Aston Villa forward Rushian Hepburn-Murphy, this time we return to Manchester City to investigate the hype surrounding their highly rated midfielder Phil Foden.
At just 18 years of age, Foden is the youngest ever Premier League winner having featured for record breakers City last season, but can he become a first-team star for Pep Guardiola’s defending league champions and break into the senior England squad this season?
These are just a few of the questions being asked about the talented central midfielder, who has already got his hands on some lucrative honours during his teenage career.
Foden, who is a boyhood supporter of Manchester City and joined the club when he was just eight-years-old, has already lifted the Premier League, the League Cup and the FA Community Shield with The Citizens, as well as inspiring England to victory at the FIFA Under-17 World Cup last October.
The attacking midfielder was awarded the Golden Ball award for being the Player of the Tournament, before being crowned BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year (2017) following last year’s finals in India.
With an impressive honours list already unfolding for the youngster, it is perhaps without little surprise that Foden has already been linked with a senior call-up to Gareth Southgate’s England squad next month, despite making just one appearance for the Under-19 age group, so far.
A lot is expected of Foden this term, but for seemingly good reason. He is labelled the future for club and country.
Born in Stockport, the midfielder was included in Manchester City’s first-team squad for the first time under manager Guardiola back in December 2016 for their UEFA Champions League group stage clash against Celtic. He was an unused substitute.
Even over 18 months ago, Guardiola had special praise for City’s brightest prospect. He said, “It’s dangerous to say good things about young players because they are still young, and they have to grow and they have to learn many, many things.
“But we have a lot of confidence to help him, because we believe he is a guy who has potential, even if he’s not strong, he’s not tall.
“I think he has absolutely good potential to be helped, and that is what we do.”
Foden remained within the club’s youth ranks for the remainder of the 2016-17 campaign, but the central midfielder was included in City’s squad for their pre-season tour of USA last July, where he impressed against rivals Manchester United and La Liga giants Real Madrid.
Again, Guardiola was singing his praises, “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.”
For someone like Guardiola, who has won titles and individual awards galore at FC Bayern Munich and FC Barcelona respectively and worked with some of the best players in world football, including of course Lionel Messi, the 47-year-old knew he was onto something special at the Etihad Stadium.
It was time for Foden to make his bow. The England youth international was handed his first-team debut against Feyenoord in the Champions League last November, replacing fellow midfielder Yaya Toure in the 75th minute – becoming the fourth youngest English player to play in the Champions League at 17 years and 177 days old.
Another month followed, and so did another milestone. Foden set a new record by becoming the youngest Englishman to start a Champions League fixture after featuring against Shakhtar Donetsk in December.
Then, ten days later, his Premier League introduction. Against Tottenham Hotspur, Foden swapped places with Ilkay Gundogan for the final seven minutes of a convincing 4-1 victory at the Etihad.
The teenager concluded his breakthrough 2017-18 season with two winner’s medals, coming on as a late substitute in the League Cup final win against Arsenal, before becoming the youngest ever player to lift the Premier League trophy, after making five appearances for City during their 100-point haul last term.
Approaching the summer transfer window, and considering the world-class quality of City’s midfield, including the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Gundogan, Bernardo Silva, David Silva and Fernandinho, speculation arose of whether Foden would be loaned out during the 2018-19 season to aid his development away from the Etihad.
But, despite his tender age, Foden is holding his own among City’s finest, and has already made two first-team appearances for Guardiola’s defending league champions this season, including starting their 2-0 victory over Chelsea in the FA Community Shield at Wembley Stadium earlier this month.
A third medal’s winner in the space of just six months, Foden is flourishing at the Etihad and is hungry for more silverware success.
Foden possesses a creative spark, piercing vision, superb ball control, an eye for goal, great passing ability and is a talented two-footed footballer, who craves opening up defences with splitting passes and is not afraid of taking on a player and beating his marker.
Perhaps what is more most impressive about the midfielder is his hunger, desire and determination to succeed.
He has that English mentality of never giving up deep inside of him, and the future is incredibly exciting for the Stockport-born starlet.
Plus, being a childhood fan of the club you adore and play for will see Foden’s appetite to thrive never fade at the Etihad.
At just 18 years of age, it is natural for the midfielder to have his first-team chances limited at City, but the opportunity to train and work day in day out with his world-class team mates in Manchester will only benefit his own career in the long run.
Learning off the likes of Silva and De Bruyne is a blessing Foden cannot undermine.
Jorginho’s snub to join City and instead sign for Premier League rivals Chelsea this summer was another blessing for Foden, which has opened the door for the youngster to impress his senior team mates and coaching staff members on, and perhaps off the pitch, this season, amid earlier loan speculation.
Already nicknamed the likes of “Stockport Iniesta” after Barcelona legend Andres Iniesta, and “Pep’s Lad” because of Guardiola’s admiration for City’s talented teen, there is plenty of time for Foden to justify the nicknames, hype and expectations placed upon the club’s biggest hope for the future.