Pep Guardiola’s gift to English football was proving ‘benchwarmer’ critics wrong

The Manchester City boss has overseen the development of midfielder Phil Foden to perfection, sticking to his guns despite many calling for the youngster to flee the Etihad

In pictures: Brighton v Man City

Phil Foden is entering a bracket of technical talent rarely seen by an English footballer of his age in history, such is the ability possessed by the Manchester City midfielder.

While the 21-year-old deserves the majority of the credit for his meteoric rise from fringe player to Premier League regular, Pep Guardiola’s influence and the ability to have the courage of his convictions cannot be understated.

The City manager stuck to his guns and handed Foden first-team minutes in stages, rather than thrusting him into the limelight – the gradual easing into senior football something Foden is currently reaping the benefits from.

Having shown glimpses of his talent in a number of his brief cameo appearances during his debut and second season around the first-team, the consensus among pundits was clear – Foden had to leave.

HAVE YOUR SAY! Has Guardiola managed Foden perfectly? Comment below.

A number of former footballing figures suggested that Guardiola was not offering Foden sufficient game-time and as a result – the midfield prodigy should up sticks and depart, at least on loan, for the sake of his career.

Speaking in early 2019, Manchester United icon Rio Ferdinand told talkSPORT how Foden should follow the lead of Jadon Sancho – who left Man City’s academy to ply his trade in the Bundesliga for Borussia Dortmund.

“He’s got great potential, but at the end of the day he needs game time,” Ferdinand explained.

“He’s not going to get that at Manchester City. Jadon Sancho didn’t, so that’s why he left.

“He demanded regular football and decided to go to Borussia Dortmund.

“If there’s an injury in midfield and they’ve got a big game I don’t see him [Foden] being the man to come in and fill the gap.”

Ferdinand’s sentiments echoed a similar message from ex-Everton striker Tony Cottee, who urged Foden to leave City six months before the United legend did.

“I’m really frustrated with Phil Foden,” Cottee claimed.

“He is an unbelievable, outstanding young footballer but he’s got to play!

Rank Man City’s stars after their performance against Brighton below

“If you’re sitting on the bench, yes people will say he’s training with the first team, but it’s not the same as playing.

“You have to get the game time and experience. He needs to play. This is a big season for him, and he’s not playing!”

Fast forward two years and every member of the Etihad faithful are thankful Foden remained true to his boyhood club and stayed put.

The 21-year-old has established himself as one of the most technically gifted attacking midfielders in the Premier League, while also boasting a staggering level of versatility.

Phil Foden scored twice as Man City beat Brighton 3-1 at the Amex Stadium on Saturday evening

After his brace against Brighton & Hove Albion, Foden was the subject of praise from his manager, who was pressed on where he views the midfielder’s best position.

“I would say I like Phil anywhere! But I like Phil for the fact he knows how to play football,” Guardiola told Sky Sports.

“We can have an extra man in the positions we want to play because to pass the ball in certain areas of the game you have to be more players, and he has the quality to do it.”

Foden certainly has quality in abundance, his ability not just Man City’s – but English football’s gain.

While plenty of England sides have possessed stellar attacking midfielders, few that played with the kind technical flair Foden does – his deft flicks and tricks are the kind of which most would associate with a seasoned Spanish international.

Thankfully, Foden is very much a Three Lions star – touted for greatness for both club and country in what is set to be an illustrious career, started under the watchful eye of the best club manager of the last decade.

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