Phil Foden had just finished his latest post-match chat with Erling Haaland when a message from theforward’s Twitter account reached another world’s top soccer player.
“Are you ready,” read the post to Kylian Mbappé, alongside a handshake emoji.
Ignoring who sent the tweet – it has since been deleted, suggesting Foden might not have been behind the brazen calling-out of Mbappé – it is a sign of the lofty circles this outstandingtalent is currently mixing in. Away from , Foden is letting his feet do the talking. With winning goals in both legs, the 20-year-old nicknamed the “Stockport Iniesta” – after a town near Manchester where he was born and former Spain and Barcelona midfielder – was the difference-maker as City beat Haaland’s Borussia Dortmund to reach the .
Next up: Mbappé’s Paris Saint-Germain, pitching together the only two players to have scored in both legs of aquarterfinal when under 21. Mbappé did so against Dortmund when playing for Monaco in the 2016-17 season and has become one of the world’s best players.
Foden appears to be on that path.
“We knew it from the beginning and how he grew up,” said City manager Pep Guardiola, who described Foden’s talent as “unique” after inviting the then-17-year-old player to train with City’s senior squad for the first time in 2016. The City is reaping the rewards of Guardiola’s careful nurturing of Foden over the. Many criticized the Spanish coach’s reluctance to play Foden more – he had a total of 36 appearances in all competitions in the
2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons combined – but Guardiola repeatedly said his, and Foden still needed to learn his trade. That time is now, in big matches in the and now on the grandest stage of all in club soccer: the Champions League. He is sure, too, to play a significant role for England at this summer’s , having seemingly established himself in the preferred front three of his national team.
Foden was widely expected to eventually fill the shoes of now-departed midfield playmaker David Silva at City – they have similar characteristics with their touch, technical qualities, low center of gravity, and left-footedness – but it appears his future lies closer to goal, in a wide-forward role.
At least in the opinion of Guardiola, who warmly embraced Foden after his 75th-minuteon Wednesday and a 4-2 victory on aggregate.
Guardiola described Foden as “dynamic offensively” and someone who “always creates something” but added that his all-around game had matured.
“He is learning right now not to take just one touch. He can make more touches when making decisions,” said Guardiola, one of the more profound thinkers about the game.
“In the quarterfinal of the Champions League, he was the important player to go through.”
With Foden flourishing, he is somehow managing to cover the offseason departures of Silva and Leroy Sane, a mercurial winger who.
Silva will foreverplace in the hearts of City fans – to many, he is the club’s most outstanding player. But Foden’s development, along with the prolific scoring this of Ilkay Gundogan, who has assumed Silva’s attacking-midfield role, has ensured Silva hasn’t been missed. At the start of the season, there was a debate over whether Foden was in City’s most potent lineup. That debate is now over, with Foden usurping Raheem Sterling, who had to settle for a substitute role in both games against Dortmund.
While Foden’s confidence is sky-high, as shown by his finish from the edge of the area that went in off the post, Sterling’s looks low. He could have added a third goal for City after being sent free down the right against Dortmund, but he delayed his finish and ended up being crowded out. “Congrats to the lads who take us to the semis tonight,” Sterling said in a tweet, perhaps underscoring that he didn’t have a significant role to play.
Foden did. Again.
PSG and Mbappé areto reach the final for the first time.
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Steve Douglas is at https://twitter.com/sdouglas80
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