Pep Guardiola has had the luxury of working with some of the most talented players in the world. His spells at Barcelona, Bayern Munich, and Manchester City have seen him work with players like Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez, Franck Ribery, and Sergio Aguero. Yet, the City manager has made the audacious claim that Phil Foden happens to be the most talented player he has ever come across.
It is quite a bold praise for the young 19-year-old, who undoubtedly has a lot of talent. However, Foden has not been a regular for Manchester City. Last season, he featured for 90 minutes in just one league appearance. Most of his 13 appearances in the Premier League were cameos and the situation is not expected to change in the 2019-20 campaign. According to BBC, Guardiola said:
“He has everything to become one of the best players. Phil is the most, most, most talented player I have ever seen in my career as a manager.”
“His only problem is sometimes his manager doesn’t put him in the starting XI. Hopefully in the future that can improve.”
The lack of assurances about a regular first-team spot is a worry.
Midway through last season, Foden signed a new contract that will keep him at the club until 2024. This is a sign of long-term commitment from the club, who brought the player from the youth setup. City have long held a strong youth setup but the riches at the disposal of previous managers has prevented most of these names from coming through. It appears that most of the City supporters tend to agree with Guardiola, as Foden is often known as the ‘Stockport Iniesta’. Interestingly, Foden’s contract is believed to be worth around £30,000 per week, which is a far cry from Callum Hudson-Odoi’s new contract, which is expected to be worth around £150,000 per week.
Yet, the opportunities that Foden has been receiving are pale in comparison with the chances that Guardiola has taken with youngsters at his previous clubs. Guardiola took over at Barcelona in 2008 but the team already had players like Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi who had been regulars.
The major changes brought about by Guardiola in terms of promoting youth were by promoting the likes of Pedro and Sergio Busquets to the first-team squad. A direct comparison between Foden and Busquets cannot be made due to the vast differences in style of play, position, and competition in the squad. However, it is quite apparent that Foden has only featured in a fraction of games.
Foden has come up with seven goals in 36 matches for City since making his debut in 2017. He has played in just under 1500 minutes of football for the City senior team. Busquets, meanwhile, had featured in more than 2000 minutes just in his first season.
It is no secret that young players need competitive football in order to grow, as training sessions and reserve games simply do not cut the mustard. Yet, the intense competition for places means that Foden is struggling for opportunities.
The player, though, is prepared to bide his time and wait for an opportunity. Recently, Foden claimed that he would be happy to sit on the bench and learn from David Silva, who will depart City at the end of the campaign.