Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has not seen many players like Phil Foden, who he believes is “special” and possesses “something that’s difficult to find”.
Foden marked just his second Premier League start with the decisive goal as City bounced back from Champions League elimination at the hands of Tottenham three days prior by defeating Mauricio Pochettino’s side 1-0 at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.
The 18-year-old was part of England’s Under-17 World Cup-winning side in 2017 but has found establishing himself in Guardiola’s star-studded midfield a tall order.
Foden has made 25 appearances in all competitions this term, a marked improvement on his 10 outings last season, and an injury to Kevin De Bruyne against Spurs could result in him featuring at Manchester United on Wednesday.
Guardiola has coached some of the greatest technical midfielders of the modern era, including Xavi and Andres Iniesta at Barcelona; and Toni Kroos, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Xabi Alonso at Bayern Munich.
When asked if he had any players like Foden at Barca, Guardiola replied: “No. He’s special.”
On how the teenager can become a more prominent member of the first-team squad, he continued: “Next season he has to fight with Fernandinho, with David [Silva], with Kevin, with [Ilkay] Gundogan. He has to run and run and run to convince me he can play. But I trust him. I trust him a lot.
“When I just landed [in Manchester] Txiki [Begiristain, director of football] told me: ‘You have to meet one player, 15 or 16 years old, you have to know him’. And the first season I did but one day or two days he came to training sessions and I said: ‘Wow, you’re right, Txiki. This player is good’.
“But I know how it works, so young players have to be careful. As quickly as you go up you can go down and sometimes you have to handle a little bit that situation, but we don’t have any doubts, any.
“Any time he played he was the standard, he was top, he was at the level to be a Manchester City player. It’s not easy play in the big teams like Tottenham or Barcelona, [Real] Madrid – the big, top, top clubs. He’s able to do that and he’s 18 years old and that’s why I’m so satisfied.
“I see him every day in training sessions. He has something special this player. And I saw many players as a football player and a manager, I saw many, and this guy has something that’s difficult to find.
“Now it’s patience, work hard and nothing [more]. We’re going to see how long his career [will last]. Hopefully a long time.”