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Foden & Pep: Why he can reach greatness if he simply listens to his Man City manager

COMMENT: It's easy. Just be attentive. Listen. And do what he says. That's all Phil Foden has to do to become one of the game's greats. Simply listen to your manager...

This column has said it before, Pep Guardiola and Manchester City are the best thing to happen to English football in modern times. And at still 23, the proof of that is the continued progress of Phil Foden.

A hat-trick at Brentford just another highlight to add to this trophy-laden career. And in terms of silverware, there's no doubt - as the former City defender Joleon Lescott highlighted this week - Foden can finish as the country's most decorated player. But this goes beyond titles. In front of us, we're witnessing the growth of a player with the potential of becoming a genuine giant.

It's what the Catalans witnessed at Barcelona a generation ago as Andres Iniesta, Leo Messi and - before them - Xavi came through the La Masia system. Similar players. Similar talent. And guided and developed by similar coaches. Guardiola worked with all three, but in terms of potential, City's former Barca coach has stated Foden beats them all.

"He has everything to become one of the best players," City's manager has stated of his protégé. "I have said many times in press conferences, but maybe not said it in front of him, Phil is the most, most, most talented player I have ever seen in my career as a manager."

That was in 2019 and what's remarkable, particularly for English football, Foden took it all in his stride. No great ego. No great demands. He just listened. He learned. And his football progressed.

England have one. They really do. A generational player. One with all the potential to sit alongside Kylian Mbappe, Erling Haaland and Vinicius Jr. But beyond that, Foden has everything to become one of England's greatest.

That's what we're witnessing. That's what Guardiola is working on. And as we say, all Foden has to do is listen and follow his manager's advice.

For this column, the great surprise is that the birds and booze culture of England hasn't swept Foden away. He's had his stumbles, sure, but the majority of those incidents have been media generated. Foden simply has never been one to court public attention.

Is that Guardiola's influence at work? It must be. Now 16 years into his coaching career. Time with Barca and Bayern Munich. You do fancy Guardiola is relishing the opportunity to impart everything he has learned over these years to his young midfielder. Guardiola inherited Iniesta, Messi and Xavi when succeeding Frank Rijkaard at Barca all those years ago. But Foden is his player. A lad of 15 who Ferran Soriano, City's CEO, urged Pep to make a check on just days into his initial arrival. In terms of player projects, for City's manager, Foden is it.

Indeed, just by the way Guardiola discusses the young midfielder, it's clear what hopes he has for the player. Go back to that sound-bite in 2019 and the expectations are obvious: "He is open minded, he works incredibly hard [in] every training session and he knows how I perceive him.

"He knows completely that I am here to help him as much as possible to become what he is and I am pretty sure both of us will get there."

Stick with me, kid, and I'll make you a star... five years on and Foden and his family must agree, Pep has been good to his word.

And now, his manager is preparing Foden for the next phase in his career: Leader. Boss. The player to run City's midfield. For everything to be played through him. After those early years of working the left-side of Guardiola's system, we're now seeing Foden employed more regularly in a central role. Monday night at Brentford the latest example of how Guardiola is steadily, deliberately, bringing on the in-game education of Foden. It's a masterclass of player development to the benefit of City - and also England.

“He will take over from Kevin (De Bruyne) and Bernardo (Silva) in the future - that is going to happen," Guardiola said post-match from the Gtech on Monday. “It's a question of process. Every season the experience he gets, he will have to lead for the other ones.

“Still, he is being led but there will be a moment (when it'll be time to step up).

“As much as he is focused on that, he will have a successful and long career, but it depends on him.

“How much he wants to be focused on his job and every detail in his life he can do whatever he wants (in the game)."

Iniesta. Xavi. Messi. All good family men. Similar personalities. Similar approaches to life. And from what we've seen, Foden doesn't veer too far away from those Barca greats.

As Guardiola says, Foden can be "whatever he wants". He just has to be attentive. Listen. And do what his manager says.

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Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie


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