Phil Foden is a gamechanger for Manchester City who could make the difference in Saturday’s Champions League final, says team-mate Ilkay Gundogan.
Foden’s first season as a regular first-team starter at City has yielded rich rewards, with a strike in Sunday’s closing 5-0 win over Everton his 16th in all competitions.
That places him second in the club’s scoring charts this term, just behind midfielder Gundogan on 17.
Foden has also chipped in with 10 assists – only Kevin De Bruyne (18) has more – and he looks set to have a key role to play in England’s Euro 2020 campaign after making his international breakthrough.
First up are Chelsea in City’s maiden appearance in the Champions League showpiece, an occasion for which Gundogan feels Foden need not make any special preparations.
“Phil has become one of our main players throughout the season,” said the ex-Borussia Dortmund midfielder, who was a losing finalist despite scoring a penalty against Bayern Munich at Wembley in 2013.
“He’s doing incredibly well, he improved in so many details of his game, mainly in taking the right decisions at crucial times.
“For such a young age it is really impressive. I wouldn’t recommend him to change anything from what he’s done over the past few weeks. He’s doing great.
“He is one of the gamechangers for us and he can be one on Saturday. But there is no need to put anyone under pressure because everyone has done the right thing over the past few months.
“It’s just about maintaining that level and form and going with that attitude into the game.”
Another player at the opposite end of his career to Foden is City’s captain Fernandinho.
The 36-year-old could become the first Brazilian to skipper a Champions League-winning side and, despite having found himself below Rodri in the pecking order for much of the season, a rousing display in the second leg of the semi-final against Paris Saint-Germain has given boss Pep Guardiola something to think about.
“I really can’t express how important Fernandinho is to us as a group,” Gundogan said, before doing precisely that.
“He is immense. He didn’t get as much game time as others in the squad this season, but he exactly knows his role and his responsibilities and what he has to do and say in the right times.
“This is what a leader is. A leader is maybe not always the one scoring the goals or playing every minute, who has the best passing rate or whatever.
“A leader is someone who is not scared to say the truth in the bad moments, who has that sense of empathy inside themselves.
“Even though his role from a sporting perspective was not the easiest one, the way he handled it was just incredible. He is a big part of our success and when he played, he played amazing.
“If you wish to have the right characters in a squad, you wish to have a lot of players like Fernandinho.”
Gundogan is one of the virtual certainties to be on the City teamsheet and assuaged any injury doubts after he was substituted having opened the scoring in last week’s 3-2 loss at Brighton and Hove Albion before watching the Everton match from the bench.
“I’m alright, I was a little bit cautious in that Brighton game,” he explained. “Because of the knock on my knee I started to feel all the muscles around it a little bit and I didn’t want to pull anything.
“I didn’t miss any training sessions, so I’m feeling good.”
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