“He is a beautiful player and one I believe England have been crying out for many years.”

That's Rio Ferdinand's assessment of Manchester City's rising star: “This kid is the locksmith, he can unlock teams.”

The Manchester United legend hailed Phil Foden's impressive post-lockdown performances, with the 20-year-old now a regular first team fixture.

Foden has had to stay patient at his boyhood club, but is now enjoying the fruits of his labour and looks set to feature for City when they take on Arsenal in Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final.


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Ahead of the Wembley showpiece, live on BT Sport 1HD and Ultimate from 7pm, the Stockport-born starlet spoke to Des Kelly with more of the in-depth interview airing during the build-up.

An atypical English talent due to his elegance and composure in possession, Foden’s playing time has been limited in a lavishly compiled squad filled with Europe’s most sought-after players.

His task is made even more challenging because the current incumbent in the advanced midfielder position - Foden’s favoured role - is occupied by the imperious David Silva.

But with Silva departing at the end of the season and Pep Guardiola likely to breathe new life into an ageing squad in the wake of a botched Premier League title defence, Foden is tipped to play a starring role next season.

Speaking exclusively to BT Sport, Foden credits Silva for his influence on and off the pitch.

“He’s always helping everyone out, with the young ones like Tommy [Doyle] now, he’s always putting an arm round him and helping him out,” he says.

“Learning from him every day, how he is as a person and how professional he is before games. You can only be better for it. 

“It's a massive responsibility to take over from Silva”
- Foden

“Sometimes you can be a bit rash with your decision making [as a young player]. He’s definitely helped me with that. Like when you see him in the 80th minute and you see how he drops a bit deeper and keeps the ball if you need to control a game. These little details help massively.”

Foden says he is aware of comparisons between his and Silva’s playing style and admits that replacing the venerated Spaniard is a daunting prospect.

“People are saying I could take his position. It’s a massive responsibility,” he concedes.

“But we’ll see how it goes next year. I’ve got to keep playing well and earn it. It doesn’t come easy, you don’t just get the shirt like that. Hopefully, I can do it.

“I feel I’ve needed to grow up quick in this team and be a man. Because if I’m going to get any opportunity I need to learn the physical side.”

The youngster, a beneficiary of the recently-introduced five substitutions rule, has featured in every game for City since the league’s resumption in June, scoring four goals including a brace against Burnley and a superbly taken strike against Liverpool.

He hasn’t looked out of place in City’s start-studded eleven and Foden, who believes he has come back from lockdown an improved player, has now set his sights on a full England call up.

“To be honest, since we’ve come back I feel a little bit stronger and a little bit quicker as well. I’ve been working hard on stuff that I need to improve and I showed when I came back that I’ve improved a lot,” says the Under-17 World Cup winner.

“I’ve not spoke to Gareth [Southgate], but I’m really trying to push for the England team. All I can do is perform well on the pitch and it’s up to him, the rest. [The Euros] being delayed has given me more game time to impress him so it could be a good thing for me.”

Southgate has warned Foden that it’s going to be difficult to break into his senior side if he’s not playing regularly, but the postponement of the 2020 European Championships affords him more time to nail down a starting position for City.

The number of goals scored by Foden since football returned

Playing time shouldn’t be a problem for the diminutive midfielder, who has this week been described by team-mate Kyle Walker as the best young player he’s ever seen. Raheem Sterling has also called for him to join up with the full England squad.

He insists he’s “enjoying every minute” of the added exposure in the last few weeks and the prodigious talent has matured on and off the pitch.

He says the arrival of his son, Ronnie, made him see the bigger picture. “Just how much you can love a human being,” says Foden when asked what he meant by the comment.

“Say if I have a bad training session or a bad game, he’s always smiling so I see the bigger picture. There’s more to life than football.”

His perspective on life has changed since the arrival of his child and Foden hopes that a strong end to the season at home and in Europe will make people do the same about City’s 2019/20 campaign.

Despite limply giving up the league title to a rampant Liverpool side, they still have a genuine chance of completing an historic treble. Foden masterminded City’s 2-1 over Aston Villa in the EFL Cup final in March and they are still in the hunt in the FA Cup and Champions League - with BT Sport the only place to watch their quest for European glory this August.

Next up for Foden and City are Arsenal in Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final, a huge match-up between the defending champions and the record 13-time winners.

For Foden, who is on the cusp of a pivotal period in the formative stage of his career, he’s intent on making a success of a rollercoaster year in City’s history.

“If we win both trophies it could be one of our best years. It’s very strange to say that because obviously we’re disappointed about the Premier League but if we win these two trophies everything will be forgiven and it will be a successful year.”

Watch Arsenal v Man City exclusively live on BT Sport from 7pm on Saturday 18 July.