Why the time is now right for Phil Foden after his first senior England call-up

Phil Foden has earned his first England senior call-up after being named in Gareth Southgate’s squad for the upcoming Nations League matches against Iceland and Denmark.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at the 20-year-old Manchester City midfielder.

Foden seems to have been on the radar for some time, why does his call up come now?

It is true that the Stockport-born youngster has been talked up for a few years now. He was a prodigious talent in the Manchester City Academy and starred in England’s Under-17 World Cup win in 2017. City manager Pep Guardiola, who famously worked with Lionel Messi at Barcelona said he is “most talented player I have ever seen in my career as a manager”. All that has held him back is a lack of top-level experience with Guardiola, blessed with a star-studded squad, using him only sparingly. That has changed in 2020 with Foden’s recent form irresistible. With David Silva winding down his City career, Foden, considered the Spaniard’s natural replacement, has featured more frequently and he has seized the opportunity.

Against whom has he caught the eye?

Foden scored twice against Burnley in July
Foden scored twice against Burnley in July

Foden’s appearances have increased year on year over the last three seasons and he appeared to come of age with a man-of-the-match display in the Carabao Cup final win over Aston Villa in March. Lockdown then halted his momentum but he picked up where he left off by scoring four goals in his first three Premier League games after the restart. Two of those came in a 5-0 win over Burnley in which he had a hand in two other goals. He scored another against Watford and was outstanding as a false nine in City’s memorable Champions League quarter-final win over Real Madrid earlier this month.

Is he ready to pick up Silva’s mantle?

Foden (right) is seen as the natural successor to David Silva (left)
Foden (right) is seen as the natural successor to David Silva (left)

Yes, it looks like he is now ready. Foden has had to be patient and wait for his chance. Two notable contemporaries, Jadon Sancho and Brahim Diaz, both left City in pursuit of opportunities elsewhere and some thought Foden should take the same option, or at least consider gaining some experience while on loan. Yet he felt City was the best place for his development and Guardiola wanted to keep him involved, even if not playing him. With Silva having now left the club after a decade’s outstanding service, Foden’s time is now. The Spaniard’s are big boots to fill but, on recent form, there is no doubt Foden is ready.

How does he play?

Foden is a nimble operator, comfortable playing deep, ‘between the lines’ or in more advanced positions. He has an exceptional first touch, his control is assured and he is sharp on the turn. His awareness of team-mates and ability to pick them out is also impressive. He has a good range of passing but is also comfortable running at opponents. With an eye for goal that is becoming apparent, those who have reserved judgement on him because of his lack of his experience are becoming increasingly impressed.

A ‘legend’ in the making?

Foden’s call-up will presumably go down well with Guardiola. The City boss has frequently praised the midfielder, both in terms of his ability and for his level-headed, eager-to-learn attitude. “It is a joy to have him and he will be a legend player for this club for the next decade, I am pretty sure of this. He has everything. I think Gareth Southgate has an incredible talent on his hands.”