SRINIVAS SADHANAND | 15th April 2021

It was the 92nd minute, the game was won and you can spot a lad adorning sky blue, hounding one of the modern era’s finest defenders in Mats Hummels. The same lad who for all practical purposes, volunteered to cover for Oleks Zinchenko at left-back at times, outmuscled wingers and won the ball back on multiple occasions because quite fittingly, it is all or nothing for him at all times.

At some point, everyone has played career counsellor when it comes to the same lad. The advice went in one ear and out the other as Manchester City and Pep Guardiola were convinced they had a superstar on their hands in Phil Foden. Bagging 2 goals in a Champions League quarter-final at 20 years of age, you’d say they were right and that goes beyond stating the obvious.

For his wand of a left foot and pulling strings in the middle of the park since his days in City’s Elite Development Squad (EDS), the David Silva comparisons are similar to the Michael Jackson’s comparisons towards The Weeknd. And while it’s damn near impossible to ever replace such unparalleled greatness, Foden’s not just embraced the impossible, he has also managed to fill the Leroy Sane-sized void on the left-wing with an astonishing level of ease.

And last night was a reminder to the world that this kid doesn’t just want to play with the big boys, he wants to take over. Jude Bellingham’s screamer was the definition of déjà vu if you sing ‘Blue Moon’ when watching 90 minutes of football. But the boy and the badge he lives and dies for weren’t done.

As City tried to pick the lock that guarded the Dortmund defence, slowly but surely, Foden came into the game. With Zinchenko often occupying the wide role, Phil, along with City’s other schemers up top was restricted to narrow spaces and had little to no room to make things happen. As things stood, things weren’t going his way.

Yet, he fought for every blade of grass, tooth and nail and his industry was rewarded in the 2nd half as Foden started to come alive. He looked threatening in the wide areas, got expertly involved with the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan in the build-up but it was in the 75th minute when he decided to change the game.

Despite Riyad Mahrez’s emphatic penalty and City being ahead on aggregate, it only needed a moment for Der Borussen to take the game into extra-time. But if anyone can recall Foden’s superb strike against Burnley after the restart last season, this was a carbon copy of the same but only this time, against Champions League regulars in Borussia Dortmund as a kid who is Manchester City through and through struck an absolute thunderbolt to break their curse in the competition.

As Pep Guardiola along with the players from the bench and on the pitch embraced the hometown hero, it felt like fate if you believe in it.

All the talk about how he needed to go on loan and how he didn’t get enough chances were in the mud. Phil Foden has been ace all season and to top things off, the world stares at the kid in disbelief as he makes men look like novices in Europe’s most elite competition. In this case, Marwin Hitz fell victim to a strike that must have looked like a meteor from distance with the venom on it.

With 13 goals and 9 assists in all competitions, the progression has been glorious. And what catches the eye even more is the fact he’s come up trumps in the big games. If his brace of assists and a cheeky dink against Arsenal in the League Cup weren’t enough , his clinical finish against Chelsea would have got you thinking.

And if you needed more convincing, taking the game by the scruff of the neck against the defending champions in Liverpool with a pearler and a sumptous assist for Gundogan was just more proof that Phillip Walter Foden is built different. And that’s after a tumultous first 45 where he struggled as a false 9 but the kid isn’t stranger to adversity.

Let’s take this all-important Champions league tie for an example.

Coming into the 1st leg against Dortmund, if aching to make a statement for his boyhood club wasn’t enough pressure for Stockport’s finest, the demise of Richard Green, his lawyer and a man he considers family made matters tougher. Yet, a Champions League masterclass was on display from English football’s standout talent as he turned Mateu Morey inside and out all evening, tracked back like his life depended on it and was everywhere. But he wasn’t as ice cold in front of goal, missing a pair of gilt-edged chances.

You’d bet against even the very elite to come up with the goods, especially after Marco Reus’ late equalizer summed up City in Europe. If a 90th minute winner in the last 8 of the Champions League wasn’t enough to make you jump on the Phil Foden hype train, the fact that he barely celebrated was testament to how he almost felt like a goal was due and he did what was expected. Simply pointing his fingers up to the sky as a homage to the late Richard Green, it was delightfully poignant, from both a human and footballing standpoint.

Sharing the pitch with Erling Haaland over 2 legs, Phil Foden’s won the battle. Whether he wins the war, only time will tell but he is right up there alongside Haaland and Mbappe in that conversation for being the globe’s outstanding young footballer.

Superstar status confirmed.