Sport

FOOTBALL

Phil Foden is already destined for greatness, but 2024 may play a pivotal part in strengthening his legacy  

Phil Foden is already destined for greatness, but 2024 may play a pivotal part in strengthening his legacy  
This season is shaping up to be 23-year-old Phil Foden’s best for Manchester City. In 40 matches played so far in 2023/2024, he is already on 18 goals and 10 assists in all competitions. (Photo: James Gill/Danehouse / Getty Images)

Manchester City academy product Phil Foden may be the secret ingredient that Manchester City need to fend off the ferocious challenge they face from Liverpool and Arsenal as they bid to win a fourth league title on the spin.

Manchester City are currently involved in one of the most intense English Premier League races in recent memory, alongside Arsenal and Liverpool.

Coincidentally, it was during the 2018/2019 season that City last faced such stiff competition for the title that they have won six times in the last 10 years. Pep Guardiola and his charges pipped Jürgen Klopp’s men to the crown by just a single point. It was an enthralling affair, with Liverpool losing just once in that campaign.

This season the pair are once again at each other’s throats, in what is Klopp’s final season with the Reds. Arsenal is also in the mix once more, after stumbling and falling in the race against City’s £1-billion squad last season.

Guardiola’s troops made history last season by becoming just one of a handful of teams that have won their domestic league title, a domestic Cup competition and the coveted Uefa Champions League.

In a squad stacked with magnificent players that cost City millions when they were acquired, homegrown talent Phil Foden played a pivotal part in making this historic achievement a reality for the Manchester club.

The midfield maestro – who was born in Manchester and joined the Citizens at just four years old – put up the best figures of his career as Guardiola masterminded City’s most successful season in history.

It was a season that somewhat vindicated the amount of money the club’s Emirati owners have spent since seizing control of the English club back in 2008, when Foden was just eight years old.

The England midfielder made just under 50 appearances for City in 2022/2023. He netted 15 times in all competitions, while providing eight assists. This season he has already improved on this, and is well on his way to insane numbers by the time the season closes. Barring any serious injury, of course.

In 40 matches played so far in 2023/2024, he is already on 18 goals and 10 assists in all competitions. Even in a squad with the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Erling Haaland, Bernado Silva and Rodri – Foden is simply sensational.

‘Unbelievable’

Manchester City's Pep Guardiola on Phil Foden

Pep Guardiola has enthused about Phil Foden’s talent, calling him top-class. (Photo: Alex Livesey / Getty Images)

“It is the number of games he is playing. He was always a talented player, but now he is more mature and understands the game more, especially defensively,” Guardiola said recently, gushing over Foden.

“He can play middle, right, make moments and cut inside. Play on the left, scoring from the left. What can I say? He is the best player in the Premier League right now, for the number of things he does. Unbelievable,” Guardiola said.

“Forget about the goals. Of course, they’re important. But do you know how he plays? How he controls and accelerates. He has already become a top-class football player,” the coach said. “So good.”

Foden’s form and growth in recent years have seen him compared to English greats such as Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard. At just 23 years, the midfielder needs a few more years of consistent brilliance to truly be mentioned in the same breath as that duo.

Of course, if he were to inspire England to their first major international trophy since the 1966 Fifa World Cup, then it would be a completely different story. He would have attained something Gerrard and Lampard failed to do in their international careers.

Golden generation

Phil Foden scores Manchester City’s second goal during the Premier League match against Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium on 3 March 2024 in Manchester, England. (Photo: Joe Prior / Visionhaus via Getty Images)

The pair of highly respected midfielders were part of an English side that looked more like a team constructed for a video game than a team of players from one country. From David Beckham, to Paul Scholes, Rio Ferdinand, John Terry, Jamie Carragher, Ashley Cole, Michael Owen and a young Wayne Rooney. Just to name a few.

On paper, the team were exceptional. But by time these players hung up their boots, none of them had any international silverware in their otherwise impressive trophy hauls.

Foden is part of a new golden generation that English football followers are hoping can finally end their misery – even though the current cohort isn’t a patch on the Lampard and Gerrard generation.

Nevertheless, with the likes of Foden, Real Madrid superstar Jude Bellingham and Bayern Munich striker Harry Kane, the English can realistically dream of winning the European Championships for the first time in their history.

During the 2020 edition, England went all the way to the final, before they were edged 3-2 by Italy on penalties. The squad have improved and matured immensely since then.

Hence, when Euro 2024 kicks off in Germany on 14 June, England will undoubtedly be one of the favourites – even with an average coach like Gareth Southgate at the helm. However, they have been one of the top picks at every major tournament since their sole success in 1966 – without living up to the tag.

One thing is certain, whatever the final outcome of their latest attempt to “bring football back home”, Foden will be central to it.

For now though, Foden’s focus is fully on City as he helps them retain some of the silverware they picked up last season, if not all of it – while also continuing his upward trajectory on an individual front. DM 

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