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city slicker Phil Foden's coming of age performance suggests he could be a world beater

He can Phil his boots and win the Champions League

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Erling Haaland and Phil Foden exchange pleasantries at the end of the first leg in Manchester. Photo: Michael Regan/Getty Images

Erling Haaland and Phil Foden exchange pleasantries at the end of the first leg in Manchester. Photo: Michael Regan/Getty Images

Erling Haaland and Phil Foden exchange pleasantries at the end of the first leg in Manchester. Photo: Michael Regan/Getty Images

To think that Erling Haaland wants £600,000 a week to sign for Manchester City or any other team.

What, therefore, could Phil Foden ask for were he to decide he wanted to move on?

At the end of last week's 2-1 first-leg quarter-final victory over Borussia Dortmund, the emerging genius of European football could be seen whispering what might have been sweet nothings in the ear of the striker who has a release clause of £61m from his contract this summer.

Yet, it was Foden who got the last-minute winner, not his fellow 20-year-old, who revels in his role as a goal machine - and, through his agent, Mino Raiola, is demanding a king's ransom for his services.

Foden earns nothing by comparison.

But the world is at his feet - and he proved it during the second-half against his side's Bundesliga opponents.

This being the last-eight stage of the Champions League and, therefore, something of a mental block for Pep Guardiola, it probably wouldn't be that surprising if the jittery City boss were to blow it again.

Just as he did last year against Lyon.

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Foden is destined for the top. Photo: Michael Regan/Getty Images

Foden is destined for the top. Photo: Michael Regan/Getty Images

Foden is destined for the top. Photo: Michael Regan/Getty Images

Yet, in Foden, he can now rely on a playmaker unlike many, if any, in world football.

He glides across the pitch, slight of build, yet able to buffer the physical approaches of far bigger men and still deliver his passes.

Yes, he missed a couple of chances against Dortmund, but, when the critical moment arrived, his finish was clinical.

It should really have been Haaland saying to him, afterwards, what it was like to play under Guardiola.

For long periods of the second half, before Marco Reus levelled it up, Foden was mesmeric.

Iconic

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Much is made of the iconic status of Kevin De Bruyne within Guardiola's side as they continue their bid for a history-making quadruple of the Champions League and a domestic clean sweep.

And, of course, the Belgian is the leader of the pack, a status mirrored by last week's new contract worth £83million over the next four years.

Yet, Foden appears destined to become even bigger - and, maybe, with experience, even better than his team-mate.

The name of Lionel Messi continues to be mentioned within the Etihad.

There were even suggestions last summer he would arrive there when it appeared he was determined to walk away from Barcelona - the club at which Guardiola allowed him the freedom to become the best player on the planet.

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Signing Messi would be an act of folly on City’s behalf with Foden flowering

Signing Messi would be an act of folly on City’s behalf with Foden flowering

Signing Messi would be an act of folly on City’s behalf with Foden flowering

But Foden has come up through the City ranks, just as the Argentinian superstar did at the Camp Nou.

He is also 13 years younger.

Signing Messi would surely, now, be an exercise only of pure ego, and his presence would surely hinder Foden's development just when he is coming of age.

Foden is paid a pittance in comparison to De Bruyne, or what Haaland wants to see in his bank account every month.

Yet, even now, he is almost priceless in what is really his first season as a regular player, Guardiola having patiently - but maddingly to those who, for years, had known of Foden's promise - refused to put him into full focus.

He also still had David Silva last season before the Spaniard, known by City fans as The Magician, headed off to Real Sociedad on his retirement from English football. Yet, the focus is fully on Foden now. And he is brighter than the glare of it.

Death

It says much for his performance against Dortmund that it came soon after the death of laywer Richard Green.

Green, a huge Liverpool fan, was more than just a legal eagle.

He was seen as a member of the Foden family and had been there from the very start, travelling across Europe to watch him for City and England's age-group teams.

He was there when Foden lifted the Under-17 World Cup in India four years ago.

When Foden tweeted after the death of Green, 56, that he would "do everything to make you proud", he really meant it.

When that goal against Dortmund went in, there was no mad dash of joy but a moment's reflection, before he pointed to the heavens.

"That goal was for you, Richard," he said afterwards.

Foden made sure he sorted out a shirt with a message for his mentor, someone whose passing was marked with tributes by Kenny Dalglish, Jamie Carragher and Rafa Benitez, among countless others.

There will be countless admirers of Foden over the years to come.

Quit

Guardiola left Messi behind when he quit Barca after two Champions League triumphs to take a sabbatical in 2012, when Foden was aged only 11.

Yet, he had already been at City for seven years by that stage.

It is the Catalan who is now charged with making him not so much the new Messi, but the first Foden - and there will be bumps along the way.

Such as his misguided subterfuge with Mason Greenwood to invite two women into their hotel room while on England duty in Iceland soon after the start of the season.

Yet, that transgression has been forgiven by England manager Gareth Southgate.

The discussion, now, is whether he goes with Foden, Jack Grealish or Mason Mount in this summer's Covid-delayed Euro 2020 finals.

But there can be no discussion about Foden's prospects in the longer term.

It may just be possible that Guardiola, nine years on since leaving Messi behind, now has in Foden the figure who can lead him to a third Champions League success.

While he can live without Haaland, life would now, surely, not be the same without Foden.

  • B Dortmund v Man City, Champions League Q-F 2nd leg, 8.0pm, Virgin Media Sport

Phil Foden factfile

  • Born: May 28th 2000
  • Foden's breakthrough came in 2017, when he won the FIFA Under-17 World Cup Golden Ball for being the tournament's best player following England's winning campaign.
  • He supported Man City growing up and signed for the club in July 2016.
  • Foden made his Man City debut in November 2017 in a Champions League game against Feyenoord.
  • He played a more prominent role in Pep Guardiola's first-team plans during their 2018/19 treble-winning season.
  • The playmaker scored his first Premier League goal on April 20 2019, in a 1-0 victory over Tottenham.
  • Gareth Southgate named Foden in the England senior squad for the first time in September 2020 and he made his senior international debut against Iceland in the UEFA Nations League tournament.
  • Foden became a dad in January 2019, when his childhood sweetheart, Rebecca Cooke, gave birth to their son, Ronnie.

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