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‘No way,’ says Phil Foden as Man City star is told which Barcelona legend Pep Guardiola compared him to

PHIL FODEN is used to being compared to Barcelona legends.

Ever since he burst on to the scene as a 17-year-old, people have affectionately nicknamed him the “Stockport Iniesta”.

Phil Foden scored twice against Man Utd at the weekend

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Phil Foden scored twice against Man Utd at the weekendCredit: Rex
Foden, 23, is having a break-out campaign

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Foden, 23, is having a break-out campaignCredit: Rex
The Man City star has been compared to Barcelona legends

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The Man City star has been compared to Barcelona legendsCredit: AFP

Yet there was an even bigger compliment from former Nou Camp coach Pep Guardiola in the aftermath of Sunday’s Manchester derby.

The Etihad chief mentioned Foden in the same sentence as the great Lionel Messi — because of his developing knack of being a match-winner.

Guardiola was quick to point out he is not putting the England ace  at the same level as his old Barca favourite just yet.

After all, he does not believe anyone currently playing at the top level even comes close to the  Argentina World Cup-winner in his heyday.

But it was still the highest praise — on the back of calling the City midfielder the best player in the Premier League.

And after his two second-half goals turned the game in his team’s favour as they won 3-1 at the Etihad, it is hard to argue.

Guardiola said: “With the good players — and I met the biggest-ever player in Messi — you can play well but you have to win games.

“I don’t want to compare because Phil is not the level of Leo  — he can do everything but he is winning games as well.”

When told what his boss had said, Foden told Viaplay: “No way!

“I want to be that player who wins games for the team — and turn up in the biggest games. You cannot compare anyone to Messi, he is in his own world.

Seething Roy Keane reveals how he’d have dealt with Phil Foden as he slams Man Utd star for ‘taking a breather’

“But to hear something like that from the manager is really nice.”

Even from a young age, coaches who worked with Foden saw comparisons with Leo Messi.

Former City academy director Steve Eyre told talkSPORT: “I’ve only seen Lionel Messi better —  in terms of the balance, which sets him apart.

“Now Foden’s legs and hips have thickened up he’s not so easy to knock off the ball. But if he ever hits the ground he bounces straight back up. He can get much better.”

It was in Tokyo during City’s summer tour that Foden first spoke about his wish to be the main man at the club.

He has been learning his trade — since breaking through six seasons ago — in the shadows of players like David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne.

But he coveted the chance to play centrally, saying he would be able to show more of his dazzling array of skills in that position.

And when De Bruyne’s hamstring surgery meant that opportunity came up for him, he stepped effortlessly and enthusiastically into the gap left by the Belgian maestro.

Now KDB is back, Foden is spending more time out wide.

But the confidence he has gained from his outstanding season is still evident. And one of the reasons Guardiola rates Foden as the best around is his versatility — he can be effective on either flank or down the middle.

The Prem is packed full of superstars but few can offer that kind of brilliance in a variety of different positions.

He is also scoring goals — 18 means he has already enjoyed his best-ever season and there could be up to 19 more matches still to come.

Surely he will be in the conversation when the individual awards are handed out later in the spring.

What is clear is City’s boy wonder has grown up in recent months — and the Treble winners are reaping the benefit.

‘I WANT TO SCORE EVEN MORE’

Foden, who won the Premier League player-of-the-match award in Sunday’s Manchester derby, added: “I’ve been practising on my finishing this year — quite a lot after training.  But I want to be that player winning the big matches for the team.

“I’ve got a good run of games now — I seem to be starting a lot more and I think that helps to find your feet. I want to be involved in goals and always be in the box.

“It’s coming off well this year and I want to score even more.

“I just think I have grown as a player. Each year I have put the work in on the training pitch and I am now getting the rewards that  I deserve.”

With that in mind, you might be seeing a lot more of Foden’s “sniper” celebration in the weeks — and  seasons — ahead.

He added: “It’s basically a joke from the lads. They say that I shoot a lot in training and they call me The Sniper. It’s my celebration now. I like to do it.”

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