You could write a fairly lengthy novel consisting purely of quotes from Pep Guardiola about just how much of a special talent Phil Foden is.
Whenever he’s stood behind a microphone – whether it be post-match or pre-match – the Manchester City boss seems to spend 90% of his time either lauding the youngster or defending his treatment of him and subsequently assuring us that he knows he’s brilliant.
And yet, no matter how many times he does this, he tricks us every single time.
In every interview in which Guardiola is asked of Foden’s qualities, he lays it on thicker than your dad butters toast. He tells us how amazing he is, how good his attitude is, how well he trains, how good he’s going to be – you name it, he says it. And so we all sit with hearts full of glee, knowing the young English starlet is in safe hands.
Then BAM. A few days later he’s sat next to Scott Carson watching on from the City bench before trudging off at full time, still donned in a luminous orange substitute’s vest. It’s like Guardiola walks away from his interviews with a sneaky grin on his face like some sort of evil villain.
Anyway, enough of this pantomime talk, the point is this – Foden is utterly brilliant, we all know that, he has the potential to become one of the best midfielders in European football. Yet, while we agree with Guardiola in the sense he needs time to develop, the best way for him to do that is by playing regular football – something he doesn’t do enough of.
Since he began management, Guardiola has built up this almost god-like complex, so much so that whenever you think a player is rubbish but he keeps on picking him, you sort of just accept it and think ‘well I obviously just don’t understand football on the same level as Pep, he’s just better than me’.
That may be so, but we’re not backing down here. Football can be overcomplicated by a lot of people, yet in truth it’s a very simple game, and the more you play it the better you become. It’s really not rocket science.
Of course, there’s the argument of ‘too much too soon’, and this has proven to be many players’ downfall – but we’re not talking about a 16-year-old South American defender who has never played a senior game of football in his life and needs to adapt to his surroundings.
This is a lad who’s set to turn 21 in just a matter of months, has two England goals to his name, two Premier League winner’s medals and has already made 18 appearances in the Champions League – more than most footballers manage in a lifetime.
The eagle-eyed among you may have noticed a very odd trend when it comes to Foden, though for those of you who haven’t spotted it yet we’ll break it down as best we can – whenever he starts a football match, he plays very well, and Manchester City seem to do likewise. WHY IS HE EVER NAMED AS A SUBSTITUTE, PEP!?
The 20-year-old has still made just six Premier League starts this season, with the campaign almost at the halfway point. To put this into context – and you may think it’s ridiculous to compare these two players but it really isn’t – Wayne Rooney had 86 Premier League starts to his name by the time he was Foden’s age, yet the Manchester City man boasts a total of just 18.
And anyone who thinks Foden is in a side with much more competition for places will do well to recall Rooney had already been at Manchester United for two years by this point in his career – and they were alright.
Having lavished Foden with praise following City’s dismantling of Chelsea, Pep shocked many by playing Foden from the off against Manchester United in their Carabao Cup semi-final on Wednesday night, with the youngster afforded the full 90 minutes.
So, is this it? Is he finally going to become the regular in the City starting XI that the country is crying out for him to become? Or is the Catalan Dick Dastardly just luring us into another trap before quashing our hopes with the next Premier League teamsheet?
Oh please just start him from the off, Pep.