Pep Guardiola recently extended his contract at Manchester City to 2023. As he prepares to turn 50 later this month, the Catalan coach has revealed a change of heart in his intentions to walk away from the game at an early age.
On Sunday afternoon, Pep Guardiola witnessed his Manchester City side put in the type of performance that has been missing for too long. They opened up a three-goal advantage over Chelsea inside 34 minutes at Stamford Bridge to heap the pressure on opposite number Frank Lampard.
Phil Foden - The 'Stockport Iniesta'
Midfielder Phil Foden was one of the standout performers for Manchester City. While he is yet to turn 21, he already appears set to fill the creative gap left by the inspirational David Silva last summer.
Pep Guardiola has never been short of praise for the young England international but has demanded patience in his development.
Despite describing Phil Foden as “the most talented player he has ever seen” back in July 2019, opportunities have remained few and far between for the player known as the 'Stockport Iniesta'.
Pep Guardiola has protected his prodigious talent while nurturing him into his plans, and it finally seems as if he is ready to release his true potential on the biggest stage.
Manchester City have suffered a relatively slow start to this most dysfunctional of Premier League seasons but showed every attribute required to mount a title challenge with their display against Chelsea.
This was more like the side that appeared ready to dominate the domestic game for a number of years following Pep Guardiola's appointment.
But as Manchester City prepare to challenge champions and current league leaders Liverpool in the second half of the season, it seems Pep Guardiola has finally regained his motivation.
Cutting a less than enthusiastic figure in recent months, it appeared that the touchline passion had been lost in the same way the constant demands of the Camp Nou resulted in his departure from Barcelona.
A rejuvenated Pep Guardiola
There is no doubt that the emergence of Phil Foden has been one of the key elements behind Pep Guardiola rediscovering his managerial mojo. His excitement over this latest stage of his development has been a catalyst in reviving his belief that Manchester City are far more than a team in transition.
Likewise, Phil Foden has shown a dedication and commitment to stick with the club and his manager when others in his position have engineered moves abroad in order to play regular senior football.
His belief in the long-term plan behind his development and his motivation to continue working on his game when opportunities remained few is testament to his attitude and character.
Despite his digressions with England last September, Phil Foden remains an important part of Gareth Southgate's plans ahead of the Euro finals later this year. If Manchester City can bring the best out of him in the remainder of this campaign, England could find themselves blessed with one of the potential stars of the tournament.
The emergence of a young star like Phil Foden offers a new dimension for the manager, and Pep Guardiola has been more than aware of his talent since he arrived at the Etihad Stadium.
Having worked with two of the all-time greats in Andrés Iniesta and Xavi in the Barcelona midfield during their finest hour, the potential of what he can become has clearly reinvigorated Pep Guardiola.
The intensity of a genius
As intense as he is brilliant, Pep Guardiola has made bold statements about the midfielder since handing him his senior debut back in November 2017.
A test of his character, Phil Foden could have been weighed down or lost focus under such levels of expectancy. However, he has continued on the trajectory that his manager has clearly had in place for him from the start.
It has been interesting to listen to Pep Guardiola discussing Phil Foden, as the mentality of the midfielder is mentioned as much as his ability on the ball. It is a trait that the manager clearly values in his players, and there is no doubt that he is as impressed with the person as much as the player.
In fact, there is every reason to believe that Pep Guardiola sees more than just the qualities of Andrés Iniesta and Xavi in Phil Foden, and that he sees a lot of himself in him as well.
Reflecting on the level of dedication and commitment necessary in order for him to make the grade at Barcelona, it is only natural that he will embrace and support a similar maturity.
But for all the talk, it was his performance on Sunday, and the reaction of Pep Guardiola when he embraced him on the touchline when he departed the field, that suggested that the manager's belief in what Phil Foden could become was finally a reality.
It marked a turning point in the season, and a defining moment in his career.
A new chapter in the career of Phil Foden
Finally, we can now expect to see a lot more of Phil Foden in the colours of Manchester City this season. It has been a long time coming, but that was always the plan.
Only a few weeks ago Pep Guardiola openly criticised him and spoke publicly about the need for him to “slow down” following his performance against Arsenal in Carabao Cup. However, this was just fine-tuning. He knew his time was close.
Like a proud parent, Pep Guardiola is ready to show the world that his praise for Phil Foden and the lack of regular game time offered to him was not a contradiction.
It was, in fact, a carefully planned project to bring the best out a player who can be the find of a generation. Motivated and inspired, both men now appear ready to take Manchester City back to the top.Published 05 Jan 2021, 06:12 IST