Manchester City’s teenage wonderkid Phil Foden would benefit from a loan move lower down the leagues

Phil Foden appears to have been singled out for greatness, but will his development be stunted at Manchester City under Pep Guardiola due to lack of game time?

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In a great piece today, The Times’ chief football correspondent Oliver Kay made a compelling argument for Manchester City’s wonderkid Phil Foden to be starting games in the FA and Carabao cup competitions, alongside carefully selected, less pressurised Premier League and Champions League fixtures next season. 

The 17-year-old has appeared sporadically for Guardiola’s side this season–understandable given his formative years–often entering the fray late on in games as a meaningless substitute.

This was the case during victories over Tottenham Hotspur, Leicester City and Chelsea and then, with the title won, for a lively 19-minute cameo in the 5-0 win over Swansea City

The Stockport-born midfielder has also appeared twice in the glamorous Champions League, once in the group stages away to Shakhtar Donetsk and at home to Basel in the second leg of the round-of-16 tie. 

Add to his tally a Carabao Cup start away to Leicester with two off-the-bench forays, including one in the final minutes of the Carabao Cup victory over Arsenal at Wembley, and Foden’s appearance total for the season stands at nine. 

A tenth could be in the offing when City’s players are presented with the Premier League trophy after their game at home to Huddersfield Town tomorrow.

Foden stands to gain a lot from his experiences is a City side under a coach widely accepted as the most intelligent on the planet and playing alongside some of the world’s most deft and subtle midfield technicians in Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva.

But with City looking to strengthen again in the summer as their thirst for Champions League glory and domestic domination intensifies where does that leave England’s great young hope? Napoli’s Jorginho has been touted as a replacement for Yaya Toure, and with Leicester’s Riyad Mahrez and Leverkusen’s Leon Bailey heavily linked, will there be a place for the youngster Guardiola once described as a “gift”?

There’s no doubt Foden is a huge talent, but his talent needs nurturing, his steady development thus could be stifled if he doesn’t play a decent amount of games next season. 

Both City and their U17 World Cup Golden Ball winner should look to the loan market.

What better toughening up process for a youngster than to play football at a lower level? Foden would benefit immensely from regular football, from having the responsibility of starting matches regularly on his shoulders, with teammates, not as financially comfortable as Premier League players, win bonuses depending on his performances. 

It’s a path well-trodden by world-class English footballers. Frank Lampard played for Swansea City during their days of struggle at the beautiful, and now gone, Vetch Field stadium. Nine appearances in the shadow of the Mumbles hills didn’t do Lampard’s career any harm.

Sir Alex Ferguson sent David Beckham to Deepdale to get his first taste of regular senior football in the third division for Preston. The teenage Beckham he scored twice in five matches during his month-long loan spell. The future Real Madrid man appreciated his time at Preston so much that he turned up to their game at Leyton Orient the following season to help his former side celebrate promotion.

Add to the list the names of Ashley Cole to Crystal Palace in 2000, John Terry to Nottingham Forest in the same year, and Rio Ferdinand and Jermain Defoe to Bournemouth in 1996 and 2000, respectively, and it’s clear that a well-placed loan move can positively influence a young player’s career.

Going out on loan to experience cramped dressing-rooms and being kicked up in the air by grown men could prove a rite of passage for Foden, with today’s Premier League academies providing such comfortable, sanitised environments for young players.

The downside of a loan move would be that Guardiola could not micro-manage the environment, or dictate when and where Foden plays. The upside, however, is far greater.

The experience would teach Foden another side to the beautiful game, one he will not likely experience in the lavish surroundings of Manchester City.

(Photo Credit: Reuters/Phil Noble)