Phil Foden claims he is happy to bide his time as he waits for chances to break into Manchester City’s star-studded line-up.
The 19-year-old midfielder has been rated as one of the most promising players in the game for a couple of years now but opportunities at the Etihad Stadium remain limited.
He came off the bench to score late in City’s 2-0 Champions League win over Dinamo Zagreb on Tuesday but it was just his fourth appearance of the season, three of which have now been as a substitute.
This is at a time when contemporaries such as Jadon Sancho and Mason Mount are making an impact elsewhere at senior level, but Foden insists he is happy with the situation.
“I am always itching to play,” said the 89th-minute substitute, who pointed to the badge on his short after scoring in injury time. “But if you look at the players ahead of me it is quite difficult.
“I just think it is all about being patient and wanting to improve every day and waiting for the opportunity. Here I was happy to make the most of it.”
City boss Pep Guardiola, who described Foden over the summer as the most talented player he has seen, apologised after the game for not playing the youngster more.
“He deserves to play,” Guardiola said. “I want to give him minutes. Every time he doesn’t play I’m completely unfair to him. I’m sorry.
“But he has Kevin De Bruyne there, (Ilkay) Gundogan, David Silva, Bernardo (Silva), Rodri. It is what it is. I am so sorry but he has to be patient.
“The best way to grow up is to play minutes, I know, but he’s so young. I don’t know how many players of his age have played so many minutes. He’s going to be incredible in the future.”
The game’s key contributions were made by Raheem Sterling after his own introduction off the bench 11 minutes into the second half.
City were beginning to look laboured after spurning a host of chances before the break when Sterling came on to inject fresh impetus. He had already troubled the Dinamo defence a number of times before turning in a Riyad Mahrez cross after 66 minutes. He then provided the pass for Foden’s late goal.
The result took City to the top of Group C with six points from two games.
Foden said: “It was one of those games where we were playing at one tempo and it took a player like Raheem to come on and change the tempo. I thought he did that really well. It was a game-changer.
“I always have the feeling watching or playing that we are going to score. Our attack is unbelievable. We always keep going to the end, believe in ourselves.”
Sterling and Foden were not the only players to catch the eye, with Guardiola also picking out the energetic performance of Gundogan in midfield for praise.
He said: “You cannot believe how good he is. He is an exceptional player, he can play many positions, with his work ethic. He is one of the best signings this club has done in its history.”
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