Phil Foden was hailed as the best young player in the world “right now” as he starred in Manchester City’s 2-0 win over Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday night.
Man City took a 2-1 lead into the second leg at the Etihad and knew they were in control of the tie, with their grip tightened early on when Riyad Mahrez opened the scoring. The Algerian scored again in the second half, triggering a PSG implosion, in what was an all-round brilliant performance from Man City to reach their first ever Champions League final.
The likes of Ruben Dias and John Stones shone in defence alongside Ederson and goalscoring hero Mahrez, but it was Foden who received particular praise, especially for his role in Man City’s second goal.
Marauding down the left flank, following a one-two with Kevin De Bruyne, Foden put an excellent low ball across the box towards the far post for Mahrez to tap in and wrap up the win, for his third assist of the Champions League this season. Adding to three goals, no Englishman has been directly involved in more strikes in the Champions League than Foden this season, while only Kevin De Bruyne (seven) has more among the Man City squad.
For the first time in the club’s history, Pep Guardiola has reached the Champions League final without Lionel Messi in his squad. #UCL
He has Phil Foden now. ? pic.twitter.com/yjNva24agH
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) May 4, 2021
Overall, only eight players have been directly involved in more Champions League goals this season than Foden including Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappe. But former Manchester United defender Ferdinand believes Foden trumps them both on form.
Talking about Foden’s role in Mahrez’s second goal, Ferdinand said on BT Sport: “Then it’s about quality, then it’s about execution and the finer end of things and he’s got that in the bag.
“He showed tonight that he can product on this level and be consistent in terms of his end product. And that’s why he’s playing in his team and that’s why, at the moment, I would say Phil Foden is the best young player on form in the world right now.
“On form, I think he is. I’m not saying Foden’s the best player I’m just saying in terms of the moment, right now he’s the most in form.”
For some, Foden’s rise could be used as a stick with which to beat Man City because of the funds they have put into players including Raheem Sterling who the 20-year-old is keeping out of the team. But former Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart has looked as the positives of this, showing those local to the Etihad and surrounding areas that there is still a pathway to the first team amid all the star signings. After all, Foden grew up less than 10 miles south of the ground where he is taking centre stage.
“His name’s Phil Foden, simple as that,” Hart said while Ferdinand was joking about him being called Felipe.
“His name’s Phil, he’s 20 from Stockport and he’s lighting it up. I think he’s an inspiration, it’s so important to Manchester City to have that, you need that with all the money they’re spending and what people try and say about them and they’ve got Phil from Stockport doing this.”
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) May 4, 2021
On the night, Foden had three shots, hitting the target twice, completed three take-ons, created one chance and recorded an assist, on top of his defensive contribution of one tackle. Foden is so easy on the eye and with every passing game on the big stage, more people are finding out why Man City are so excited about him.
“It feels like he’s unfazed at this level,” Ferdinand added.
“This is the semi-final of the Champions League an important game, they’ve never been further than this ever. But he’s come into here and he’s creating match-defining moments as a 20-year-old.”
Understandably, with the tournament kicking off in just over a month, attention quickly turned to Foden and his place in England’s squad for Euro 2020. Not too long ago there were discussion on whether he’d make the squad, battling with the likes of Mason Mount, Jack Grealish and James Maddison. But now, he’s being tipped not only to make the squad but to start for Gareth Southgate.
Ferdinand said: “He has to be one of the first names on the sheet at the moment because he’s doing it at this level.
“Which other England players are doing it on this level right now?”
On current form it’s hard to disagree and alongside the likes of Mount, Foden is a player England can build their future around. But for Man City and Foden that won’t matter right now, as all eyes are firmly set on winning the Champions League at the end of May.