Phil Foden Credit: Getty
England manager Gareth Southgate has praised Pep Guardiola’s management of Phil Foden, after the Manchester City midfielder put in a man-of-the-match display for the Three Lions on Saturday.
England beat Andorra 5-0 as they made another step towards securing their place in the 2022 World Cup.
It was Foden’s first minutes in an England shirt since the Euro 2020 semi-final win over Denmark, with an injury curtailing his involvement in the final against Italy and delaying his start to the 2021/22 season.
But Southgate is delighted to have Foden back in his ranks once more and is fully aware of how supremely talented the 21-year-old.
“We’ve known since 15, 16 what might be possible and we are seeing that. His evolution at his club has been perfect, really,” said the England boss.
“For lots of us we were probably waiting for him to get established in that City team, you have to say that Pep Guardiola has managed that really well.
“He is flourishing. We know what is possible. It was a big blow for us when he was out of the [Euro 2020] final in the end. The fascinating part is what that role might be and it could be any one of a number, frankly, because he’s got the ability to play in many different positions.
“Let us just enjoy him, he is a special player without a doubt,” Southgate added. “Let him grow into the team. We have to try and bed him in at the right time and get him positionally right for the right games. But we are delighted to have him.”
“It was heartbreaking”
Southgate was also asked about the moment last summer when he realised Foden would miss England’s first major final in 55 years.
The City midfielder has himself spoken about the emotional experience, one his international manager can vividly recall.
“As a dad, you are talking to a 21-year-old kid and you know how much it meant to all those players to be involved in that game,” Southgate said.
“So it is heartbreaking when you are sharing a moment like that with a player. It wasn’t a case of me having to rule him out. He just knew. He tried to run and knew it wasn’t going to be possible. It was a big blow for us.
“Look, in football, you have to be resilient. From when they have been 12, 13, always been judged, always been assessed. He’s got that toughness. I don’t doubt that is ever going to be an issue for him. He has that in his make-up. Whatever is thrown his way he will be able to handle it.
“I don’t think the tournament went badly for him because I think he contributed well, but I think we know from what we’ve seen, there’s another level and that experience of being in the big matches that he has already had with us, but also with his club can only help him.”