UCL Magazine - Episode 30May 14
Paris Saint-Germain v Man City: Phil Foden braced for latest defining moment in unmissable showdown
The English superstar has fulfilled Pep Guardiola’s prophecy as the Blues look to break their Champions League duck, exclusively live on BT Sport.
Halfway through Man City’s Champions League second leg against Borussia Dortmund Jude Bellingham had struck to put the Germans in pole position to progress to the last four and continue the Premier League leaders' bleak quarter-final run under Pep Guardiola.
In what would have been the clearest case yet for fatalism, Man City were facing elimination from the competition they crave more than any other at the hands of an unreliable Dortmund outfit.
Fast forward 45 minutes.
Memories of an insipid first half were banished after Riyad Mahrez converted from the spot to hand the initiative back to the treble-chasing visitors. Twenty minutes later, Man City’s boyhood hero Phil Foden lifted the curse with a thunderbolt to bury their opponents.
It was another standout moment from the 20-year-old from Stockport, whose astronomic rise shows no signs of relenting. Amid wild celebrations after his rocket of a strike, he sought out Guardiola and shared an emotional moment with the man who has expertly guided him through the nascent stages of his career.
Foden has consistently impacted crucial games this season.
From scoring a sensational solo effort to seal Man City’s first win at Anfield since 2003 in February, to his virtuoso display against Tottenham in Sunday’s Carabao Cup final, the England star has gone from strength to strength in his breakthrough campaign.
Remarkably, he will celebrate his 21st birthday next month having already won seven major trophies with Man City.
Phil is the most, most, most talented player I have ever seen in my career as a manager
- Guardiola on Foden in 2019
His steady output is borne out in the statistics. He boasts more goal involvements that anyone else in the squad and is second for both goals (14) and assists (13).
Of his 14 goals, five have been winners – including in both legs of their quarter-final against Borussia Dortmund and five have given City the lead.
Going into Tuesday’s semi-final first leg against Paris Saint-Germain – a match you can watch exclusively live on BT Sport – only six players have amassed more minutes than Foden’s 2,948.
He has seamlessly filled the void left by both David Silva and Leroy Sane in one, both of whom left for pastures new last summer, but his impact transcends empirical data.
His movement is elegant, balletic even. His touch, range of passing and game awareness are exceptional and he has also proved that he is tactically astute and adept at playing in a number of positions in midfield, out wide and even as a false nine.
Ahead of the summer’s delayed European Championships, there is a palpable sense that we’re witnessing the emergence of a generational talent who will play a starring role on the global stage for club and country for years to come.
For Guardiola, he never doubted his protégé’s potential.
Back in 2019 the Spaniard said: “He has everything to become one of the best players. 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.”
He was left purring again after Foden’s starring role in his side’s 2-1 come-from-behind win over Aston Villa last week.
“He’s making steps forward every time. His influence in our game is massive right now. He’s so aggressive without the ball. He's becoming a serious player,” added the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss.
“Phil, right now, in the last games especially, is becoming such an important player. His influence in the final third is so important.”
Speaking after another superlative display against Borussia Monchengladbach in the last 16, BT Sport pundit Owen Hargreaves eulogised over Foden’s prodigious ability: “He’s just special. Technically he’s really, really special.
“He can beat a player whenever he feels like it. For a young kid his end product is unique in terms of goals and assists.
“I think his football smarts is his greatest attribute.”
Next up for Foden and Man City is a trip to France to take on Paris Saint-Germain in the first leg of a mouth-watering Champions League semi-final showdown.
There is a school of thought that the star-studded French champions, complete with Kylian Mbappe, Neymar and Angel Di Maria, could be Man City’s kryptonite given their vulnerability to rapid breaks. Pochettino also has a famous European win over Guardiola on his CV after Tottenham’s extraordinary victory over Man City in 2019.
In an interesting subplot ahead of the first leg, Foden will come up against Mbappe weeks after he parted ways with his social media company after a contentious tweet directed at the French superstar was sent from his account.
In the wake of the victory over Borussia Dortmund which set up the meet with Paris Saint-Germain, a tweet was posted from Foden’s account, which said “@KMbappe are you ready?” followed by a handshake emoji. It was later deleted after Foden was reportedly left disappointed by the post.
Two of Europe’s hottest prospects are set to face off on Wednesday evening, providing Mbappe recovers from a thigh injury he picked up against Metz at the weekend in time. After the verbal jousting was curtailed on social media, both will be looking to do their talking on the pitch in the French capital.
After replacing his idol David Silva, Foden – who was behind the goal when Sergio Aguero scored his famous goal to seal the 2011/12 Premier League crown – has become as integral as the legendary Spaniard was at the Etihad Stadium.
More than that, he can take credit for igniting City’s resurgence after their worst start to a league season since 2008/09.
After their quadruple hopes were ended by Chelsea in the FA Cup semi-finals, the English champions-elect are in relatively uncharted waters in Europe having only reached this stage once before.
The world will be watching their truly unmissable clash with PSG and who would bet against the wise beyond his years Foden delivering another statement performance?
Watch PSG v Man City exclusively on BT Sport 2 HD from 7pm tonight.