Already a Pep player - Man City the best place for Foden to become a superstar

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The City boss has been criticised for not playing the 18-year-old enough but there is no better club for him if he wants to realise his potential

If Saturday's 20-minute cameo is anything to go by, Manchester City is the best place to be for Phil Foden right now.

There has been much clamour for the 18-year-old to be given regular game time by Pep Guardiola following his exploits with England's World Cup-winning Under-17s, and indeed the Catalan's own high praise of the youngster.

The reality of the situation means Foden will not get on the pitch every weekend, but weeks like these highlight the value of keeping him at the Etihad Stadium, rather than loaning him out for what many would consider valuable, more regular first-team football.

His impressive cameo against Cardiff City will surely be followed by a start against Oxford United in the Carabao Cup on Tuesday, though it will not always be like this; last weekend, Guardiola said he felt "guilty" for not getting the youngster onto the pitch when City beat Fulham.

"He deserves to play," the former Barcelona boss conceded. "The problem was the injury to Sergio Aguero; we didn't want to take a risk.

"But Phil Foden will play a lot of games this season - I feel it. The guys after the game were so tired, we have games, games, games, so he's going to play.

"I like him a lot. Every time he plays, he plays so good. He will get minutes."

Phil Foden Pep Guardiola PS

Given the Blues were 3-0 up when Guardiola brought on Ilkay Gundogan for Fabian Delph, the City boss did receive some criticism for not getting Foden onto the pitch. As he pointed out, however, Aguero had gone off injured earlier and, with Delph also taken off, City had to re-arrange, moving Fernandinho to right-back and Kyle Walker to left-back.

The champions were in a comfortable position but Guardiola, as much a pragmatist as a romantic, would not have wanted to risk conceding a goal with Foden in a weakened midfield, ahead of a makeshift defence. 

One of the realities of Foden's situation is that players like Gundogan are currently safer bets, even in matches where City have a three-goal lead. But how will Foden get a fair chance of fulfilling his potential and reaching those heights if he does not play?

There is no single right way. Chelsea, for example, have sent Mason Mount, the 19-year-old midfielder rated equally to Foden in terms of potential, on loan to Derby County this season, where he has played the full 90 minutes 10 times out of 11 so far, with the only exception being when he was taken off after 75 minutes.

Mount – who could start on at Old Trafford on Tuesday as the Rams take on Manchester United – is certain to learn a lot about his midfield role under the guidance of Frank Lampard, and there is no doubt that his game experience, in the competitive Championship, will prove beneficial.

Yet the thinking has been slightly different for Foden. City are not shy when it comes to loaning out their young players but, frankly, Foden has been kept around because he is rated more highly than the rest; because he has been earmarked as somebody who can genuinely make an impact on the first-team.

City and Guardiola have decided that the best way to do that will be to keep Foden at the club. The Stockport-born midfielder will be given minutes this season and on Saturday he put in his most impressive first-team showing to date. 

No doubt liberated by the fact City were 4-0 up at the time, the kid nicknamed 'Ronnie' looked comfortable as he completed 21 of his 22 passes, one of them a fine cross from the left where he overlooked a near-post scramble to pick out Bernardo Silva.

He was later put through on goal, only to shoot straight at Neil Etheridge. 

Phil Foden Manchester City

A senior goal has eluded him so far but there is growing evidence that he looks at home in this City side. And that is the point. Whereas other young players can go out on loan to improve, it has been decided that City is the best place for Foden.

It is one thing to train with world-class players every day but there is another aspect that is usually overlooked.

Why send him away to get first-team experience if that experience does not help him get into Guardiola's team? The Catalan has drilled exactly what he wants into his players over the past two seasons, to the point where Vincent Kompany has said their passes and movements have become automatic – and that is the case for Foden, too.

Had he gone to another club last season, or joined one for the current campaign, he would have no doubt grown as a footballer, but he would then need to be reintegrated and recalibrated upon his return to City.

Every member of the squad, except perhaps David Silva, needed a significant period of adaptation to Guardiola's methods. Even players like Leroy Sane and Bernardo Silva took plenty of time to get into the groove when they were signed, and Guardiola says it will be the same for Riyad Mahrez.

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Foden, at the age of 18, is already there. He has always had the talent – that has been evident since he joined the club at six years old – and now he is developing the understanding.

If he wants to make it at City – and he desperately does – then there is no better place for him right now.

He does need minutes on top of his training, but if Guardiola is true to his word, there really is nothing to worry about.

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