Phil Foden and Jadon Sancho must ignore comparisons in pursuit of greatness
Following Manchester City's nervous 1-0 victory over Leicester City that inched them ever closer to securing back to back Premier League titles, I was surprised to read a couple of articles criticising the performance of Phil Foden, who was withdrawn by Pep Guardiola on 53 minutes with the game tied at 0-0.
The Daily Mail went with the headline 'Harsh lesson for teenager Phil Foden in win over Leicester as Pep Guardiola sacrifices him as Manchester City chased vital goal' while Football 365 asked 'Is Phil Foden too comfortable to achieve his potential?'
I watched the game last night and while Foden didn't have his best game, I was still impressed by his performance in the first half. While his passing wasn't as accurate as usual he drove forward well and was a real goal threat for Manchester City in the first half.
There is no shame in a player who is still yet to turn 19 years of age being withdrawn and replaced by a player of the quality of Leroy Sane.
What both of these articles ignore is what Foden has achieved by forcing his way into this incredible Manchester City side. Last night was a huge game for the club and the fact that he found himself in Guardiola's first XI is a testament to the huge progress that he has made.
The treatment of Foden is typical of the English media. We've seen it with so many other young players over the last 30 years. Paul Gascoigne, Michael Owen, Wayne Rooney, Theo Walcott and many others have all received similar treatment.
Build them up and then knock them down.
Ever since Foden starred in England under-17 team that won the World Cup in 2017 he has been tipped for stardom, with many fans and media alike desperate to see him get more playing time and fast-tracked into contention for the England team.
One player that he has been regularly compared with is Borussia Dortmund's England star Jadon Sancho, who left Manchester City in August 2017 in search of regular first-team football.
Sancho's decision has undoubtedly been a successful one. At the time of writing, he has played 52 games for their senior team, scoring 13 goals and earning four caps for England in the process.
He has considerably more minutes under his belt than Foden but that doesn't mean that the player who chose to stay with Manchester City has been any less successful.
In 2017-18, he made 10 appearances for Manchester City at senior level for a total of 328 minutes, doing just enough to secure winners medals in the Premier League and League Cup.
With two games of this season remaining, he has made 26 appearances, scored seven goals and picked up League Cup and Community Shield medals. He has played 1,107 minutes and may yet add another Premier League medal and first FA Cup winners medal to his expanding collection.
To compare him to Sancho, or other young English players of his age, is to completely ignore the fact that players develop at completely different rates and the internal challenges Foden faces at Manchester City just to get anywhere near the side.
Over the last 20 years, an obvious comparison to be made is between Wayne Rooney and James Milner. Both players broke through at the same age and have enjoyed incredible careers. But while Rooney, who played a lot more top-level football than Milner at a younger age, sees out the twilight years of his career in the MLS, Milner continues to excel at the very top level of the game with Liverpool.
Both have enjoyed remarkable careers but peaked at completely different times. There is no right or wrong just the simple truth that no two players are the same.
Just because Jadon Sancho shouldn't be held back, doesn't mean that Phil Foden shouldn't be protected and developed at a different rate by Manchester City.
The British media must respect the trajectory of both players and not turn on either of them at the first hint of a blip.
Given time, patience and the platform the make mistakes and improve, they both have the potential to play at the very top of world football for years to come.