One of our own
Over 200 senior appearances, 11 major honours and a regular for both Club and country since 2020.
If Phil Foden were to hang up his boots tomorrow, he would be looking back on what is already an incredibly successful career at the top of the professional game.
It therefore puts the Stockport-born midfielder – still just 22 years of age – and his meteoric rise into the upper echelons of world football into perspective.
Joining his beloved City at the age of four, Foden diligently worked his way through the ranks before earning his big break in November 2017.
In a poetic sense – when Yaya Toure – a pillar of the Club’s journey from sleeping giant to European behemoth – made way for the then-17-year-old, it was an indication of the exciting future that beckoned at the Etihad Stadium.
And almost five years on, from a Champions League quarter-final double against Borussia Dortmund to a Manchester derby hat-trick, time and again the local lad has proven himself to be one of the finest attacking technicians of his generation.
Committing his future to Pep Guardiola’s men until 2027, more unforgettable performances and stunning achievements surely beckon for City’s no. 47, but what do those who started their own footballing journeys alongside Foden remember of the midfielder?
What are their earliest memories of playing with – and against – their former team-mate? How did he find the transition from youth to senior football? And did they always expect him to hit the heights he is currently reaching?
Below is the story of Phil Foden’s trajectory into the City spotlight from those who brushed shoulders with him on those very first steps to stardom.
“Everyone knew Phil. Opposition teams and I knew him from a young age. He’s always been incredible.”
Former City winger Luke Bolton’s assessment of Foden is unequivocal. The pair had worked their way through the ranks alongside each other at the CFA from Under-12s level, developing their craft with eyes fixed firmly on breaking into the senior squad.
As is often the caveat with youth football, Bolton recalls a time when the England international’s physical stature fell behind those of his peers.
But despite his diminutive build, Foden’s obvious technical prowess continued to grow at a rapid rate.
Indeed, Bolton believes the deft touches, body feints and incredible close control which are part and parcel of the midfielder in full flow, were truly developed during this period of his nascent career.
He reflects: “There was a stage where he hadn’t grown but everyone else had. You could see his ability, but you could tell he was struggling a little bit with the physical side.
“[But] probably around 14 or 15 he just kicked on massively again and then Phil does what Phil does.
“He gets in the pockets and when he’s on it, you can’t stop him. I think that’s what you’ve seen from him week-in-week-out for the first team now. It’s all things I’ve seen for years really.”
A regular for City’s Under-18s side by his 16th birthday, Foden was a key cog in the side who marched to a second successive Premier League North crown, losing just one match en-route to the title.
Lee Carsley’s young side were eventually pipped at the post by Chelsea to the National championship that year, and also suffered heartbreak in the FA Youth Cup final over two legs at the hands of the Blues in that same season.
But City’s journey to that showpiece occasion had once again provided Foden – who had been handed a place on the bench for Pep Guardiola’s men for a Champions League clash with Celtic earlier in the season - with an opportunity to showcase his burgeoning talent.
Bolton, also a part of that Under-18s side, says a particular glimpse of brilliance from Foden in a 6-0 semi-final first leg triumph at home to Stoke City stands out for him among a plethora of dazzling displays.
For the winger, it was a moment which made him truly believe that his team-mate had what it took to be at home in Guardiola’s star-studded squad.
“There was this move he always did where he would receive the ball in the pocket on the half turn in the 10 position. He’d do it religiously,” he reflects.
“We were playing Stoke in the FA Youth Cup semi-final and he got on the half turn; a defender came in from behind and he turned past them as if they weren’t there.
“Then he ran in on goal and scored. For me, I think that made me realise: ‘wow, he’s one step ahead of everyone’.”
Picking up play with his back to goal from now-Welsh international Matt Smith, the midfielder jinked away onto his right foot between two Stoke players, riding a challenge from the onrushing centre-half in the process.
Selling another rapidly retreating defender a dummy to shift the ball back onto his favoured left foot before a cleverly disguised finish sent the goalkeeper the wrong way.
The goal, which put City two ahead in an eventual 6-0 drubbing, has Foden’s fingerprints all over it.
“He was my dream to play with,” Bolton continues.
“Obviously, I was a wide man and I’d just stay wide and if the ball came to my feet, I’d give it to him, then he would then give it back to me down the line.
“You could always trust him with the ball. He was very technical and tactically aware and that again shows why he’s done so well with Pep.
“Obviously, Pep’s so tactical so I think he fits the system really well.
“He’s a dream to play with because he’s someone who can pick out a pass or go on a dribble himself.
“He scores goals and he worked hard. I think that goes underrated for Phil sometimes, how much work he puts in when he’s not involved in goals etc.
“You’ll always see him run about and I think that goes understated, really.”
Just two months after his Stoke strike, Foden’s talents were translated onto the international scene.
The youngster was on target in the UEFA Euro Under-17 Final against Spain in May 2017, but a penalty shoot-out defeat denied him and his fellow England youngsters the silverware.
When Foden and co. faced La Roja in another international showpiece in October of that year, the City man wasn’t to be denied a second time.
“The Under-17 World Cup – that was a top competition from Phil,” Claudio Gomes reflects.
Now at fellow CFG club Palermo in Italy, the former City midfielder crossed paths with Foden when the pair were both looking to break into the first team as 18-year-olds.
Relatively speaking, given his longevity at City, Gomes’ time alongside Foden came late in his development, with the England international having already made a handful of senior appearances before the former’s arrival at the Club from Paris Saint-Germain in July 2018.
However, as the Frenchman explains, he was already well versed in the precocious quality of his new team-mate.
Back at the CFA to take part in a friendly with Premier League side Nottingham Forest, Gomes reflects on what could be fairly described as a watershed moment in the youngster’s career with a telling grin.
“At that World Cup, there was competition from every team. I was really impressed with that England side, but especially with Phil,” Gomes explains.
“It just looked so easy. Not everyone can do what he could do on the pitch at that time, especially at his age.
“People could see an idea of what sort of player he’d be. I saw on social media some highlights sometimes as well and could see the quality from there.
“I’d been playing against him with the French national team. The thing I can say about him is the quality.
“He gave off a good impression to everyone and now he’s showing that to everyone in the world. He’s a world class player.”
Managed by current Forest boss Steve Cooper and containing the likes of Marc Guehi, Morgan Gibbs-White, Connor Gallagher, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Emile Smith-Rowe to name a few, the England side who claimed the Under-17 World Cup received national attention for their achievement.
At the centre of that success was Foden, with the youngster grabbing a brace in a 5-2 win over Spain in the final.
His exploits across the tournament would also see him named the tournament’s best player, pipping current City team-mate Sergio Gomez to the crown.
It was now time for the midfielder to progress to the senior ranks and continue his rapid trajectory under the watchful eye of Pep Guardiola and his coaching staff.
Despite that transition to the first team - the culmination of over a decade of blood, sweat and tears to achieve his dream – Foden’s attitude towards learning, improving, and representing the Club he loved at any level has never wavered.
“From a young age, he was just a normal lad who loves football,” Bolton explains.
“There are videos of him in the street on the off-season in Stockport playing football with kids, that is Phil. He just loves playing football no matter where it is.
“He’s been like that since I’ve known him. He’s really humble and just loves football. That’s all I can say, really.
“He was never ‘big-time’ or anything like that and, again, that helps when going into a first team with so many big personalities.
“No one would have thought: ‘who does this kid think he is?’ he just got on with his work and he’s reaping the rewards now.
“His footballing ability always took care of itself. I always knew if he got the chance, he’d go places. He’s proven that.”
Gomes offers a similarly glowing assessment of Foden’s attitude both on and off the pitch.
Indeed, the 22-year-old has never let the personal appraisals, nor the glitz and glamour of Premier League and international football, affect his affable demeanour around the CFA.
“Firstly, he’s a really good person,” Gomes adds.
“Everyone liked him at the Club, he was cool with everyone and talked to everyone.
“He’s a nice guy, never sad, always happy. Happy to play football. I think everyone has the same opinion about him.
“If everyone watched football and watched Manchester City when he’s on the pitch, everyone would think it too.”
Almost 200 appearances and 11 major trophies later, those early predictions of Foden’s tremendous potential have been well founded.
But what is truly exciting for Manchester City – and daunting for opponents around the world – is that his peak years are surely still to come.
Whatever the future holds for Foden, his early grounding at the CFA has provided the essential building blocks from which he has gone on to flourish.
And his commitment to the Club – evidenced by his new deal stretching until the summer of 2027, show that the unwavering appreciation he is afforded by our supporters is well and truly reciprocated.
“Phil Foden, he’s one of our own” – truer words have never been spoken.