Phil Foden and Cole Palmer gave a glimpse of what the future holds for their careers and Manchester City as a club. The youngsters put up stunning displays in the Champions League as City demolished Club Brugge 5-1 in front of their home fans.
It was a game the Blues could have won by as much as eight goals. Several missed chances in the first half spared the Belgian side’s blushes. But once the first goal went in, the floodgates were opened for several more.
Joao Cancelo latched onto a pinpoint Phil Foden pass from the centre of the pitch to provide a sublime finish for the opening goal. A well-taken Riyad Mahrez penalty put City 2-0 up shortly before halftime.
It was a well-deserved lead as City ran the Belgian side ragged. Foden was arguably the best player on the pitch as he operated from several positions. From a false nine role to the wings, midfield and even back helping the team in the defence, the 21-year-old was everywhere.
He got the commentators waxing lyrical about his qualities as he continues his meteoric rise to the top of the best players list. He has been outstanding for both club and country in the last two years and yet he is just getting started.
A new improved long-term contract extension with the club gives an indication of his value to the club. It’s safe to say that the Stockport-born rising star is primed to achieve legendary status at the Etihad Stadium in future if he continues on this trajectory.
Foden may be the biggest academy success story at the moment, but there’s another budding star coming through. Cole Palmer is following the blueprint with steady progress.
Palmer made headlines last weekend with a hat-trick for the under-23 team on the same day he featured for the senior team in the Premier League. After making a substitute appearance against Burnley, he went on to play the full game with the EDS delivering an amazing performance in the process.
Guardiola is accelerating his development by letting him train with the first team while slowly integrating him into the matchday squad. He is giving the starlet minutes as a substitute in the Premier League and Champions League, or as a starter in cup games.
Palmer is taking every opportunity to show why he is deserving of the trust. The young midfielder scored his first senior goal for the club last month in the League Cup against Wycombe Wanderers. He followed that up with a sublime strike against Club Brugge in the Champions League.
Despite showering praises on him for his performances so far, the gaffer has cautioned against expecting too much too soon from the 19-year-old. But his comments on the player’s quality (especially coming from a man that has managed some of the best talents in the game), reveal just how much of a special talent Palmer is.
“Cole has a special quality in front of the box, a talent that is difficult to find. When he has the ball there, most of the time it ends up in the net. It’s difficult to find that,” Guardiola said after the game.
Imagine having a Foden-Palmer midfield combo for City in the years ahead. Special midfield talents in their prime bring to mind a previous combo at Guardiola’s Barcelona - Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta. Of course, no two players (or combos) are ever the same.
But if Tuesday’s showing at the biggest stage is anything to go by, the Manchester-born duo represent the future at Manchester City.
And it’s a bright one.