Pep Guardiola was handed his Barcelona break as a skinny teenager by Johan Cruyff so the Manchester City manager has no qualms in following suit with Phil Foden.
The 18-year-old Foden made 10 appearances across all competitions in 2017-18, and looks set for a more significant role this season following a stellar showing in the 2-0 Community Shield win over Chelsea at Wembley.
In a media conference ahead of Sunday’s visit of Huddersfield Town, it was put to Guardiola that there are similarities with Foden’s breakthrough and his own at Camp Nou under Cruyff at the start of Barca’s fabled ‘Dream Team’ era.
Guardiola benefited from Cruyff’s insistence that a player’s technical ability was more important than his physical stature – a mantra that has stuck with the Catalan and has shaped his own coaching philosophy.
When it was jokingly put to him that Foden was a better player, Guardiola responded with a smile: “By far! I am a better holding midfielder than him and he’s a better attacking midfielder than me.
“I would say it depends on the view…everything is important, but Cruyff in that period was always focusing on the quality, the quality, the quality, it doesn’t matter [about] weight and height if he has good skills in terms of quality technique.
“Other managers in that time looked for more physicality…’I want to have strong [players], it doesn’t matter technically’, it depends on the manager, but he [Foden] is strong, he’s a box-to-box player, he runs a lot and this season he’s stronger than last season so give him time…in one, two, three seasons he’ll be stronger than now.
“You need the process to grow so it’s not a problem, that’s why the focus on the technique is the most important thing because they will grow and take power so then it will be easy for him but he has the quality to play with us, no doubt.”
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Guardiola was also asked whether he felt academy players at top clubs were not getting a chance due to the vast amounts of money involved in bringing in established stars at the elite level.
“I don’t think it’s the reason why, it can be a reason why but the problem is these guys play in the competitions that didn’t compete with the real competition,” he said.
“I’ve said many times but in the case of Phil it’s very different, we know him very well, he was with us last season, he’s part of the group so sometimes last season he went first team, second team, now he’s part of the team and when I believe he has to play he’ll play.
“So the only thing I can say is I’m delighted in the way he trains every single day, he trains like a professional, the way he improves and he has the same chances as the other guys.
“The players who came from the academy, the problem to start immediately in the first team is not easy because I could not see them against teams and in important stages but that is not the case from Phil because I had to put him in the Champions League and in the Community Shield final against Chelsea and whatever stage, he can do it, we trust him a lot.”