Pep Guardiola has told Phil Foden to shut out the noise as the plaudits pour in for his fine form with Manchester City.
The 20-year-old midfielder has played a key role in City’s run of 14 straight victories with six goals and three assists in his last 10 starts, highlighted by a man-of-the-match performance in the 4-1 Premier League win over Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday.
The display was described in some quarters as a ‘coming of age’ moment for a player whose potential has been obvious for some time, and Guardiola said Foden now faces another key test in his development.
“It will be (different) for him,” Guardiola said. “He has to be calm and understand the tough periods are going to come. It depends if he’s humble for this.
“The expectations at that age, we’ll see if he can handle it. Now people will expect him to do exceptional things every game. This is the most difficult thing…
“The greatest players don’t play one great match at Anfield. They stay five years in a row being consistent, not being injured and playing, playing, playing. This the next target for Phil.”
Foden’s 100th City appearance came against West Brom at the end of last month, but given the excitement around the academy product, there has long been an impatience for him to play a bigger role.
This week Guardiola has gone from facing criticism for his reluctance to select Foden to earning praise for his careful nurturing.
The manager said he will not change the way he handles his young talent, but remains wary of the hype – both good and bad – surrounding Foden, who was sent home in disgrace by England last year after he and Mason Greenwood brought two women to the team hotel in breach of Covid-19 protocols.
“We cannot forget that he was competing at a young age with David Silva, Kevin De Bruyne, Sergio (Aguero), Gabriel (Jesus), Raheem (Sterling), Leroy (Sane),” Guardiola added.
“Sometimes he played when he didn’t deserve to. Normally we want to increase it and talk a lot, a lot, a lot about Phil, and then after that we punish him for one mistake in his private life.
“That is why I said to him, ‘Don’t read much or listen much, keep your feet on the grass and keep going’…
“Now it’s just calm. I know Phil is ready to play because his physical condition is extraordinary, his recovery and the way he runs in many moments without the ball in the game, but I’ll handle it the same way I handled it.
“When I believe he can help us he will play – and if I feel someone else deserves to play then he’s not going to play.”
City head to Swansea on Wednesday aiming for a place in the FA Cup quarter-finals and a 15th consecutive win in all competitions.
That would see them break the record for an English top-flight club jointly held by the 1891-92 Preston side and 1987-88 Arsenal team.
But Guardiola has warned it will be tough at the Liberty Stadium, where City needed a controversial late Sergio Aguero winner to reach the cup quarter-finals two years ago.
Swansea have lost just one of their last 14 matches, and Guardiola expects another tough examination.
“The Championship is a strong league, incredibly strong,” he said. “You say they’ve only lost one game and it’s enough to understand how difficult it will be.”