Phil Foden is already known affectionately by Manchester City fans as the ‘Stockport Iniesta’.
Foden earned the self-deprecating moniker because of his perceived similar poise and guile on ball to Barcelona and Spain legend Andres Iniesta.
Still only 20, England starlet Foden is unquestionably the future of City, the player around whom the team will be built in the coming years.
Foden returns to City’s starting line-up for tonight’s Champions League tie against Marseille, in his familiar attacking role under boss Pep Guardiola.
But Guardiola, who coached Iniesta at Barca, reckons Foden will occupy a deeper role in the years ahead, where he can exert more influence – just like the man from whom he gets his nickname.
“Phil has been top all season, since the very first game against Wolves,” said Guardiola. “He played so good there and scored a goal.
“Phil is young, but has specific energy, a specific quality.
“Of course, he has to improve in the final decisions in the 18-yard box, he has to be more patient in that moment, but that’s his age.
“He’s going to handle his energy through the years. We’re delighted to have him and he’s an incredibly important player for us – he knows it and the team knows it.
“Now, in this moment, I see him playing up front, because he’s dynamic, that sense of goal, he helps us with the first pressure and then afterwards going backwards.
“But I’m pretty sure that with age – when he becomes 24 or 25 – he will be able to play more in the defensive midfield.
“He has to understand situations sometimes, but it’s part of the age. Now he can play both wings, behind the striker or as a striker.
“He’s dynamic, the way he attacks the ball is incredible and that’s why, as a manager, having someone who can play in several positions is fundamental.”
Despite his undoubted star quality, which will make him a key player for club and country, Foden has been in and out of City’s side this season.
Guardiola, though, says the reason for Foden’s rotation, along with the rest of his squad, is because he needs to give all of his players game-time so they are ready when required.
“Phil gives us quality in Europe, the Premier League and the cups,” said Guardiola.
“He played against Real Madrid last season, but not Lyon, and then played this season.
“I don’t see the Champions League as completely different to other ones. Every game we try to pick the best team.
“I’m not a guy who plays all the season with just 11 players, I don’t believe in this. I like everybody involved.
“So when they’re ready, when they’re incredibly focused, they’re going to play. I don’t like to have eight or nine players without playing games.
“The better you play, the more chances you have to play regularly. It’s as simple as that.”
With Group C won, Guardiola can rest players ahead of Saturday’s derby at Manchester United, although he claimed those who feature tonight can still stake a claim to play at Old Trafford.
“The team that plays against Marseille, some of them can play against United, or maybe not,” said Guardiola.
“I want to win this game and then, on Thursday or Friday, we’ll think about United.”