Mason Mount and Jadon Sancho are in the latest England senior squad but Phil Foden will spend the international break with the Under-21s
While Jadon Sancho and Mason Mount are training at St George’s Park with England’s senior squad, more than 2,000 miles away in the Turkish city of Izmet, Phil Foden will be in action for the Under-21s.
The three youngsters – who are seen as the long-term future of Gareth Southgate’s attack-minded era – have so far taken a different route with their burgeoning careers.
Sancho swapped Manchester City’s youth team for Borussia Dortmund and the 19-year-old has gone from a winger of huge promise to one of the most exciting young talents in Europe, linked with a £100 million ($123m) moves Manchester United and Barcelona and prompting plenty of copycat moves to the continent.
Chelsea midfielder Mount, meanwhile, opted for a loan move to Championship side Derby County, where he established himself in a promotion push that only faltered in the play-off final before returning to Stamford Bridge this summer to start the four Premier League matches in a row under Frank Lampard.
Foden, on the other hand, has stayed at City under, content to remain under the careful tutelage of Pep Guardiola, who has described him as “the most talented soccer professional I have ever seen in my career as a manager” yet afforded his protege just 10 minutes of game time so far this season.
England have hopes that this emerging generation of talented footballers will be able to establish themselves at club level, earlier rather than later, with a view to mounting a serious bid to win Qatar 2022.
Mount, Foden and Tottenham full-back Ryan Sessegnon were taken to Moscow by Nike in 2018 to get a flavour of what the World Cup has been all about.
Since then, Sancho has established himself as a regular for England and Mount earned his first squad selection, for this week’s European Championship qualifiers against Bulgaria and Kosovo.
However, Foden, who has been a year behind Mount in his development, has been still waiting for a call, even though Southgate has been a fan of the Stockport-born midfielder.
Guardiola has said that the teenager will get more game time this season, while insisting that Foden needs to be patient.
A brief cameo on the opening day of the season against West Ham after an 89th-minute appearance in the Community Shield would test most players’ patience.
But Foden has put his trust in the former Barcelona manager, who guided Sergio Busquets, Gerard Pique and Lionel Messi to greatness.
Foden signed a new five-year contract just when some were beginning to question whether he should follow Sancho to the continent, and ended up making 26 appearances last season.
Potential loan moves to Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds, last season, and Roma, this summer, were rejected out of hand, with Guardiola and his assistants viewing Foden as a prominent member of the first-team squad.
But, as Guardiola himself admits, he has a fight to earn starts with the quality of David Silva, Kevin De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva and Ilkay Gundogan ahead of him in the midfield pecking order.
The City boss doesn’t hand out game time for the sake of it.
Even when City were leading 3-0 against Brighton on Saturday, Guardiola used the more senior Bernardo as his final substitute and the Portuguese midfielder then proceeded to score a fourth goal 17 seconds later.
Foden’s chance will come, though.
Serious injuries to Leroy Sane and Aymeric Laporte will stretch the depth of City’s squad and starters will rotate more often after the international break when they start to play twice a week on a regular basis.
Foden has been seen as the long-term heir to David Silva, who has been leaving at the end of the season after 10 years at the club.
The Spaniard has always been an approachable soccer professional to youngsters at the Etihad Academy and has taken his time to help Foden on the training ground, giving him advice about his movement and awareness on the pitch to aid his succession.
But Silva rediscovering his very best form in the early part of the season has actually hindered Foden’s first-team chances.
Silva struggled to make an impact in the second half of the last campaign and Foden was picked ahead of him for the crucial 1-0 victory over Tottenham.
But Silva who has barely put a foot wrong this term, contributing four assists in the opening four matches.
He has been desperate to end his Etihad career as a Champions League winner – adding the only medal missing from an incredible collection of silverware.
Guardiola picks his side on merit and while Silva continues to be so influential, he will be difficult to drop.
Foden has so far shown no frustration at seeing the likes of Sancho and Mount prosper elsewhere and has been happy being close to his family and at the club he supported as a boy.
And Guardiola insists his time will com.
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“[The young players] have to fight and be patient and work and work and don’t complain too much,” Guardiola said before the Brighton victory.
“The time has been coming and the moment has been coming, to show all of them – the moment to say, ‘I am here and ready.’
“He’s going to the Under-21s and he has been going to play. Everything has been in the right position.”