Pep Guardiola is heartened by the progress of Manchester City’s youngsters this season but knows there is no guarantee of a golden generation, such as the one he oversaw at Barcelona a decade ago or Manchester United’s ‘Class of ’92’.
England Under-21 midfielder Phil Foden has ticked past 50 career appearances for City and scored his 10th goal for the club in last weekend’s 4-1 FA Cup win over Port Vale, when Taylor Harwood-Bellis was also on target for the first time in senior football.
Harwood-Bellis’ fellow teenage centre-back Eric Garcia was accomplished as he started the recent home wins over Sheffield United and Everton as part of a back three, while Tommy Doyle – who counts City greats Glyn Pardoe and the late Mike Doyle as his grandfathers – made his full debut against Southampton in the EFL Cup in October.
Footage of Doyle and Harwood-Bellis celebrating City’s 3-1 first-leg win over Manchester United in the semi-finals of that competition from the away end at Old Trafford went viral this week.
Guardiola saw and enjoyed the clip but was hesitant when asked to assess the chances of City’s breakthrough stars becoming household names – citing the pressures they must navigate to establish themselves at an elite club.
“I don’t know. I would like to answer and say ‘yes’ but I don’t know. To figure out if young players will become incredibly top players for the future, I don’t know,” he said, speaking ahead of Sunday’s Premier League trip to Aston Villa.
— Manchester City (@ManCity) January 8, 2020
“This is a club that is so demanding, you have to win games. Sometimes you win four titles and it’s not enough
“Four titles last season is not enough; we didn’t win the Champions League. That is the reality.
“Sometimes they compete against incredible central defenders and, for Tommy Doyle, incredible midfielders.
“For Phil Foden, it is an incredible reality. He is an exceptional player and sometimes he doesn’t play the minutes he should play because he competes with what happened at Old Trafford. All the midfield players played and they played incredibly well.
“I am a big, big fan who respects the process with the young guys. But we have a tendency in all the countries – here as well – that they make the two games and already they will be the new [Wayne] Rooney or the new George Best or will be the new David Beckham.”
As Foden and his contemporaries continue the early steps of their journey at City, greats of the modern era they will hope to emulate are moving on.
David Silva will depart at the end of this season, while Fernandinho and Sergio Aguero’s deals expire in June 2021.
Former captain Vincent Kompany bade an emotional farewell after completing last term’s unprecedented domestic treble, following the exits of Yaya Toure and Pablo Zabaleta 12 and 24 months earlier respectively.
— Vincent Kompany (@VincentKompany) May 7, 2019
“We cannot deny how important all these names you name have been for this club,” Guardiola said, with Kompany set to be honoured at a Football Writers’ Association tribute night in London on Sunday.
“Vinny is unique, Sergio will be unique, David – these type of players are incredible. I think the club, they have the duty and the obligation to find the best replacement for all of them, as quick as possible and anticipate it.
“We have to try and find them or build them from here – it is our obligation as a club.”
As he negotiates this changing of the guard at the Etihad, Guardiola again reiterated his belief that Silva’s replacement will be a young man built from within.
“David is going to leave this season and we are not going to buy any player in his position because we have Phil,” he added.
“Maybe this season Phil will have more minutes, or maybe less. I don’t know. We trust Phil.
“If we didn’t believe in him we might go to the market to replace David, but we have Phil.”
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