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Phil Foden’s brilliance and Marcus Rashford’s struggle is yet another example of Pep Guardiola’s greatness 



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In this week’s edition of his City Xtra column, Amos Murphy revels in Phil Foden’s brilliance and evaluates the role Pep Guardiola had to play in the Stockport-born starlet’s development.

Phil Foden agrees to sit on the bench for six years’ might just go down as the worst football prediction in the modern era.

Since journalist Neil Custis made his now infamous prophecy back in December 2018, Phil Foden has played over 230 times for Manchester City, scored over 70 goals, and lifted 13 trophies in the process. 

It’s easy to forget just how much stick Pep Guardiola picked up during the early days of Foden’s career. The Stockport-born starlet had been catching the eye long before the Catalan rocked up at the Etihad Stadium, but it was the arrival of Guardiola that got both City and non-City fans alike about Foden’s potential development. 

Were there some frustrations to begin with over how much football Phil Foden was playing? Obviously. The talent was there to be seen and while Manchester City did have established greats already in their side, there was an underlying feeling that Foden possibly could’ve had a bigger role to play during his teenage years. 

Not least because a short hop down the road in Stretford, a slightly older but equally brilliant Marcus Rashford was making a splash for Manchester United. Rashford was thrown into the United starting XI at age 18 and – at least until recent times – has never looked back. 

That was until Rashford was checking his shoulder while Foden ran riot during the weekend’s Manchester Derby. The United man might’ve netted a wonder goal of his own earlier in the first half, but by the time Foden had inspired City to a memorable victory, Rashford had retired to the substitutes bench and could only look towards his England teammate with envious eyes. 

The treatment, evolution and all-round handling of the two players couldn’t be further apart. While Rashford has been milked by manager after manager at Old Trafford ever since he burst onto the scene in 2016, Foden’s growth as a professional has been carefully curated by Pep Guardiola, who recognised the importance of patience in a player’s development. 

It shouldn’t come as a surprise either. Despite false claims that Guardiola is a ‘chequebook manager’, the Barcelona-born coach is probably the best developer of truly world-class talent in football. Just ask Lionel Messi what he’s like to work under.

That’s why Guardiola worked tirelessly to convince Foden and the City hierarchy that keeping him around in the senior set-up, even though his minutes were limited, was a much better course of action than sending him out on loan. There were offers, plenty of them, but Guardiola said no and Foden is now flourishing. 

Granted, patience was a virtue with Foden, but in a way, it’s been a blink and you miss it rise to the top for City’s starboy. And even now, at 23 – almost 24 years old – Foden continues to get better, something illustrated by his astonishing 2023/24 campaign. 

With over two months of the season left to run, Foden has already bettered his best goals tally for an individual campaign, taking his total to 18 during Sunday’s derby demolition. And after another 11 appearances between now and the end of the season, Foden will have topped his record for the number of games played as well. Whisper it, but Foden has quickly become one of City’s undroppable stars… but it didn’t happen overnight.

Pep Guardiola took the time to make some sense of Phil Foden’s talents and look at him now. You could say it was all part of The Masterplan.