The much-vaunted Phil Foden would have been dreaming of a slightly more romantic conclusion to his long-awaited first start in a Manchester City shirt.
The hugely talented 17-year-old, who left Pep Guardiola speechless with his performances in pre-season, was included in City’s starting XI for the very first time as they travelled to Shakhtar Donetsk in the final Champions League group-stage clash on Wednesday.
The evening did not quite go to plan, however, for player or club. Shakhtar were more than deserving of their 2-0 win while Foden, who is arguably the most highly-rated teenager in English football right now, did not live up to those lofty expectations.
Playing in an unfamiliar left-wing back role, Foden was unable to influence the game from an attacking point of view and gave possession away on a number of occasions. Though this is to be expected of a player who had just 15 minutes of senior football under his belt, even one as talented as Foden.
But his disjointed debut display perhaps only exacerbated the feeling that a loan spell away from City would be good for his development. According to the Scottish Sun, Celtic were hopeful of taking Foden on loan for the second half of the season – but City have blocked any immediate exit for the teenager.
Though Foden could be better suited playing regular first-team football north of the border if, as some have argued, he has already outgrown the academy game.
Patrick Roberts is the latest City starlet thriving on loan at Celtic, following in the footsteps of John Guidetti and the 2015/16 SPFA Young Player of the Year Jason Denayer. Foden, under Brendan Rodgers, could become a more mature and confident performer at first-team level.
And it seems that the odd cameo outing, like that against Shakhtar, is not the best way to help Foden develop.
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