Manchester (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Phil Foden’s impressive efforts in helping England reach the Under-17 World Cup final may lead to a Manchester City debut, his club manager Pep Guardiola has suggested.
The 17-year-old midfielder has been outstanding at the tournament in India, helping his country reach the final, where they were scheduled to play Spain on Saturday.
Former England manager Glenn Hoddle is among those to have been impressed by Foden, yet his form has come as no surprise to Guardiola.
The City manager watched from the club’s boardroom last April as the midfielder scored a fine individual goal in the first leg of the FA Youth Cup final against Chelsea, although the tie was ultimately lost 6-2 on aggregate.
He was impressed enough to take Foden on the club’s pre-season tour of the United States, and has made clear he is a part of the first-team plans at the Etihad Stadium.
“There was an opportunity for Phil to stay here with us and play in the game against Wolves (League Cup last 16 match last Tuesday),” said Guardiola.
“But we believe that when this guy has a chance to play in a World Cup against Brazil, against Germany, Spain, Italy and whoever else, in India, it’s an amazing opportunity. It will be really good for his growth.”
Guardiola, who played a key role in the development of Lionel Messi at Barcelona, is wary of putting too much pressure on Foden, who he sees as a midfielder rather than the wide player he has been deployed as in India.
– ‘He knows his body’ –
However, he has no doubts the teenager has the potential to become a great player, with the right application.
“He is a special player. I think he is a special player,” said Guardiola.
“The national team is playing him as a wing-back, or a winger on the right, even though he’s more of a midfielder, but even in that position, he plays well.
“It’s dangerous to say good things about young players because they are still young, and they have to grow and they have to learn many, many things. I think at the World Cup, he will learn a lot.
“But we have a lot of confidence to help him because we believe he is a guy who has potential, even if he’s not strong, he’s not tall.
“I think he has absolutely good potential to be helped, and that is what I like to do.”
Meanwhile, Guardiola has indicated that it is up to Vincent Kompany to decide whether to end his international career after next year’s World Cup.
Kompany is close to returning to fitness, having not played since suffering a calf injury while featuring for Belgium against Gibraltar in a World Cup qualifier on August 31.
Guardiola hopes to have his captain fit for the Premier League trip to Leicester on November 18, the first fixture after the next international break.
Kompany, 31, suggested in June that he would retire from international football after the World Cup finals in Russia, and Guardiola will leave the decision with the player.
“I don’t know his position. No. Vincent is a man, you know. He knows exactly what he has to do better than me. He knows his body,” said Guardiola.
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