Phil Foden determined to add Club World Cup to his Manchester City medal haul

Academy graduate eager for treble winners to end memorable 12 months in style

Phil Foden applauds the fans during the Premier League match between Luton Town and Manchester City. EPA
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Manchester City midfielder Phil Foden says the opportunity to make more history with his boyhood club is driving him on as the treble winners prepare for the Fifa Club World Cup in Saudi Arabia.

At just 23 years of age, Foden has already amassed an enviable collection of medals, including five Premier League titles, two FA Cups, four League Cups, and a Uefa Champions League. Earlier this season City beat Sevilla to claim a maiden Uefa Super Cup title, and next week they'll look to complete an astonishing 12 months of trophy-hunting with a first ever global crown.

It's all such a long way from Foden's early days with City - he has been around the club since he was just four years of age - when they could only dream of landing such an array of major silverware. While, on a personal level, Foden has lived every boy's dream; coming through the ranks, even serving as an Etihad Stadium ball boy, before making his mark in the first team.

The Club World Cup's second round matches take place on Friday and City will learn who they'll face in next Tuesday's semi-final. Mexican side Club Leon take on Asian champions Urawa Red Diamonds for the right to test themselves against the Premier League champions, while hosts Al Ittihad clash with Egypt's Al Ahly with the winners going on to play South American champions Fluminense.

Foden says City are ready for all comers having racked up a sixth win from six in the Champions League group stage and got back to winning ways in the Premier League against Luton Town last weekend. They now host Crystal Palace on Saturday before immediately departing for Saudi Arabia.

“The Fifa Club World Cup is a new experience. We want to win it.” said Foden, the youngest ever recipient of a Premier League winner’s medal.

“It’s all about making history; we want to add the competition to the list. I’m really looking forward to it.

“Reaching that first Champions League final against Chelsea changed the belief in this City side and we knew we were ready to go again last year when we won it. The more you play in those big games the more you know how to handle them and the less pressure you feel.

“We have confidence. Not in an arrogant way but we all believe in one another. We are a good team off the field too. A well-bonded team. Everyone knows the rest of the squad is going to work and fight for each other.”

Whereabouts on the pitch Foden will feature for City in Saudi Arabia – and for the rest of the season once Kevin De Bryuyne is fit again – remains to be seen, but he feels he can make a major contribution if shifted to the right to accommodate the Belgian's return.

“I think I’ve played my best football on the right hand side of the team,” he said. “Most attackers want to be coming in on their stronger foot. Playing well is more important than the goals and assists but those two things certainly help confidence.

“When I’m scoring and assisting my game goes to the next level. I think people can see that. Sometimes I have the license to come inside more and find the pockets which is something I enjoy and something that I’ve done since I was a kid. Other times I play wide. You never know with [manager] Pep [Guardiola]; he switches things up a lot and you have to be prepared to play in different positions.”

When I’m scoring and assisting my game goes to the next level. I think people can see that.
Phil Foden

Initially, Foden had to be ready, too, to wait for a regular starting place for City as Guadiola ignored the clamour from the terraces and the media and preferred to ease the academy star into the first-team picture.

Now a 31-cap England international, Foden is grateful for that guidance and acknowledges the part the City boss has played in his rise.

“There’s no resting on what’s been achieved already. That’s the way I am and that’s the way Pep is,” he said. “You can see him every game on the touchline trying to make us better and improve every player and that’s the mentality we have.

“I like the fact that the manager is never wholly satisfied because I want to get better. I want to be told when I’m not doing the right thing. I like it and that’s how he gets the best out of us.

“In the early days being on the bench a lot was tough because I love playing football and when you are not getting many minutes it’s so difficult, but I had a few conversations with Pep and he told me to be patient and look at the quality that was in front of me. He told me I would get my chance and to make sure I was ready when I did.

“He gave me a surprise start versus Spurs at home (April 2019) and I ended up scoring the winning goal. I realise it was moments like that he was trying to prepare me for. I never thought about a loan move. I’ve always seen myself as a City player. I’ve worked very hard for it and I have to thank the manager for trusting me.

“We have meetings before a game and the manager will outline the positions he wants us to move in and where their defenders are going to be and more often than not it happens. He drills movements into us. It might look easy on the pitch sometimes but that’s the coaching.”

Foden is now approaching 250 appearances in all competitions for City and he enjoys and embraces being the shining light from an academy that is now producing a steady stream of first teamers.

“It has been a heck of a journey,” he told the official Man City Podcast. “The story that I have is so nice. Coming through the academy age groups to the first team. I’ve enjoyed every moment but it has gone so quickly.

“The older pros always say make the most of your career when you are young because it goes by so quickly. I try to get the most out of myself every single day. I want to make every day count and to keep on improving.

“A dream of mine is also to play with as many academy players as possible for the first team. I feel a connection to them. To see Rico Lewis and Oscar Bobb doing so well is good to see. They are both unbelievable players for their age. They are going to be important for us.

“Rico is crazy for an 18-year-old. He's much more alert than I was at that age. It’s not normal to find such football intelligence in an 18-year-old. Oscar is someone who likes to get in the pockets and turn. He’s making a big impact.

“From being a ball boy to being part of a team that wins a treble and a first Champions League is a dream. I just wish everyone could get to feel the joy I felt in Istanbul just once in their lifetime.”

Updated: December 16, 2023, 6:08 AM