The comparisons are inevitable and, as far as Pep Guardiola is concerned, utterly unwanted.
Phil Foden has long appeared to be David Silva’s natural successor. There is a similarity of style between the relatively diminutive left-footers, the sense they have the technique and assurance in possession to elevate them from lesser talents.
Then there is the generation gap that suggests a baton could be passed when Silva leaves Manchester City in the summer. The Spaniard is 33, the Englishman still a teenager. Foden has been eased into first-team football.
He has 54 appearances for City and, as Guardiola likes to point out, few players of a similar age have more for elite clubs. Perhaps Foden could slot seamlessly into City’s strongest team when Silva heads off into the sunset or, in his case, the Canary Islands.
But Guardiola is wary of burdening the teenager with the expectations that come from bracketing Foden with Silva, possibly City’s greatest player and a man with an enviable medal collection. “If Phil can have the career of David, it will not be bad,” Guardiola said.
“It is better for Phil not to be compared with that legend and an incredible player like David. But he is growing. In every game his influence in the game is growing, so he is playing at a high level. But David won leagues and World Cups with the national team, playing millions of games, getting millions of assists. But for his age, the perspective for Phil is so positive.”
Foden added another assist and his 10th City goal in Saturday’s 4-1 win over Port Vale. Along with the excellent Ilkay Gundogan, he was the best player on the pitch. And yet, while he lined up alongside Silva, perhaps the captain was not the City starter Foden resembled the most.
He was ostensibly the right winger. The diagonal runs he made, from the wider starting position into the penalty box to meet low crosses from the opposite flank, were reminiscent of the rested Raheem Sterling.
Two first-half chances, one fashioned by Silva, came to Foden in similar positions. Guardiola can get the winger to act like a striker in the box. In Foden’s case, there is the added achievement that he is a midfielder by trade. If it felt a similar triumph of coaching to get Foden into those scoring positions time and again, it suggested he is a receptive audience for Guardiola’s coaching.
It amounted to a landmark occasion for City’s homegrown youngsters and, indirectly, an illustration of how one of their young imports has progressed. Taylor Harwood-Bellis became the second teenager from Stockport to score as he opened his City account. Tommy Doyle, grandson of two City greats, made his FA Cup debut in a cameo.
Eric Garcia, 18, meanwhile, had a watching brief after playing 225 minutes in the previous three games. “It was too much to play again,” Guardiola said.
It suggested the young Spaniard may have played himself into the team for Tuesday's League Cup semi-final first leg against Manchester United, though the City manager was adamant he was yet to pick his team for Old Trafford.
Harwood-Bellis, who was watched by his family, admitted he knew little about his goal, when a John Stones shot flicked his calf on its way in. The goal was initially ruled out, before being permitted after VAR was involved.
“There was a bit of luck with it coming off John’s shot but I’ll take it,” Harwood-Bellis said. “It was quite obvious it came off me. When it went to VAR I thought I could be offside but fortunately it was OK.”