Football

Kevin de Bruyne: Phil Foden no longer ‘young talent’ but now ‘one of the guys’

Kevin De Bruyne now considers Phil Foden simply “one of the guys” at Manchester City and hopes the 21-year-old can play a decisive role against Real Madrid on Wednesday.

Foden was long seen as the most promising young prospect at City but had to wait for his opportunity to feature regularly in Pep Guardiola’s first team.

Although the midfielder made his senior debut in the 2017-18 season, he was kept on the fringes for his first two years.

Even in 2019-20, when making 38 appearances, scoring eight goals and assisting nine, Foden was restricted to just 18 starts.

Since then, though, the England international has gone from strength to strength, following up 26 goal involvements last term (16 goals, 10 assists) with another 24 this time out (13 goals, 11 assists).

Foden netted against Madrid at the Etihad Stadium in a 4-3 first-leg win in City’s Champions League semi-final, and De Bruyne believes his team-mate can make another important contribution in the return leg.

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“He’s been amazing,” De Bruyne said. “I’ve seen him from a little boy who had massive potential.

“Whenever you come up to a first team, you are a little bit shy, and it takes time and more playing time to get comfortable in that situation.

“But the last two years he has been in a very comfortable situation, and you see the difference in the way that he plays. He’s not a young talent any more, he’s one of the guys.

“It’s a big step to make, but now everybody looks at him to make a difference because he can. He’s proven that lots of times, and he probably will do much, much more for this club in the future.

“I’m hoping he does the same that he’s been doing. If you’re playing constantly very well, that is all you can do. He doesn’t play with ups and downs, he just does what he needs to do for the team.”

De Bruyne has had to rediscover that consistency himself after enduring a tough start to the season following an ankle injury that he initially tried to play through.

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The Belgium midfielder did not look his usual self as he scored only three goals and provided a single assist in his first 17 club matches of the campaign.

However, since then, De Bruyne has 12 goals and 11 assists in 23 outings, including the opening goal in the first leg against Madrid.

“The first months [of the season] were really hard,” he added. “I’ve never experienced the pain I had.

“I was trying to come back, but it wasn’t something I enjoyed. Mentally, it was hard to overcome.

“Once the pain was gone, I started to feel more confident in myself, in my body, to get back to where I belong. Now, playing all these games, I feel back to the level I was before.

“I try to be as consistent as I can, and this year I’ve done that.”

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