OPINION: Foden Should Follow Sancho’s Footsteps

A fresh-faced 17-year-old Jadon Sancho left Manchester City for Borussia Dortmund in the summer of 2017 leaving behind a distraught Pep Guardiola who knew he had lost a generational talent. Fortunately, Guardiola was blessed with another generational talent, Phil Foden, who is now questioning his game time. Should Foden stick or twist?

With this being Sancho’s third full season in Germany, the now 19-year-old has racked up a total of 39 starts in the Bundesliga. In the meantime Foden has made three in the Premier League.

This season the Dortmund winger has three goals and five assists in six league starts. Comparatively, Foden has played just 10 minutes of league football and restricted to just 101 minutes in all competitions.

“Not even for 500 million euros.”

Over the course of three seasons Sancho has 16 goals and 23 assists in the Bundesliga while Foden has produced just one goal and one assist in the same amount of time. The difference? Playing time. Sancho has played 3,303 more league minutes than Foden in the last three seasons. That is the equivalent of 36 games.

The ruthless nature we have become accustomed to seeing with Sancho was personified when the then 17-year-old stood up to the immense Guardiola with his ultimatum: play me or I will leave. Whether being a Manchester City fan is prolonging his stay, we are yet to see equal ruthlessness from Foden.

City manager Guardiola is more than aware of the talent Foden possesses. Despite having managed the likes of Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta and Xavi, Guardiola has said: “Phil is the most, most, most talented player I have ever seen in my career as a manager.

“He has everything to become one of the best players.”

A gap year in Germany is exactly what Sancho’s best friend and Arsenal’s young prospect Reiss Nelson did. A year’s loan at Hoffenheim saw the 19-year-old nominated for the 18/19 Bundesliga Rookie of the Season, Germany’s equivalent to young player of the season, as he scored seven Bundesliga goals and averaged a goal every 90 minutes.

On his return to Arsenal, Nelson has started twice in the Premier League as well as having scored and assisted in the Carabao Cup and Europa League. The gap year in Germany has done wonders for the England U21 star due to the consistent playing time he was gifted by then Hoffenheim coach Julian Nagelsmann. 

This is just one example of what consistent playing time can do to the development of young players. Foden can look to his ex-England U21 teammates Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori who have now been promoted to the England first team. All three were on loan in the Championship last year and their explosive development has taken them to all start for Chelsea in the Premier League this season, with Abraham currently being the joint-top goalscorer.

Consistent playing time not only increases a players confidence and ability but their market value too. By December last year after only a year and a half playing in the Bundesliga, Sancho’s transfer value had risen 806% to a valuation of £79.44 million according to figures from the CIES Football Observatory. Nearly a year later and he is now believed to be valued at more than £100 million. 

Starring in the Bundesliga; becoming the face of FIFA 20 the game and scoring twice in nine caps for England. Would the Sancho have any of these accolades if he stayed in Manchester?

Guardiola has insisted Foden is the natural successor to David Silva, who will leave City at the end of this season. 

As rumours of Foden leaving City increase, the ex-Barcelona manager told the Sun: “Phil’s going nowhere. Phil is City. We won’t be signing anyone else for that position. When David Silva leaves, we know exactly who our knew magician will be.

“He is the only player who can’t be sold under any circumstances, the only one. Not even for 500 million euros.”

Guardiola has given Foden every complement possible. Now he must follow his words through with actions, by playing the academy graduate before a repeat of the Sancho and Brahim Diaz situation happens.

For a young player to force their way into a Premier League side they must be an extraordinary talent. When they have world-class players in front of them such as Silva, Kevin De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva, Raheem Sterling and Riyad Mahrez, even for a player as talented as Foden, the task is virtually impossible.

Sancho realised this. He twisted. He is acting out on the potential everyone knew he had when he left City. Now it is Foden’s choice. Will he stick or twist?

Photo credit: Flickr, Author: Brad Tutterow

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