John Stones says he has never seen a young player as talented as Phil Foden, as Gareth Southgate weighs up whether to stick with the Manchester City man for England’s World Cup last-16 clash with Senegal.
Foden was left out of England’s line-up for their first two games in Qatar – a 6-2 thrashing of Iran and a goalless draw with the United States – but he got on the scoresheet after starting Tuesday’s 3-0 win over Wales.
He led his team-mates for expected goals (1.04 xG), shots in the Wales area (four) and crosses (five) last time out, and Foden’s City colleague expects him to continue impressing.
“I’ve never seen anyone at that age like Phil, with his ability, his football knowledge, and his freedom in how he plays and how he expresses himself,” Stones said on Friday.
“The ability he’s got is frightening. I’m a huge fan of Phil, I’m lucky to get to play with him pretty much every day.
“I look forward to seeing what he can do and I love playing with him. I’m extremely lucky, City are extremely lucky, England as well, that we’ve got somebody like that.
“I want to help him through whatever it might be, and make sure he gets what he needs on and off the pitch that allows him to go and play as he played the other night.”
2006 – England have finished top of their World Cup group for the first time since 2006, when they were eventually eliminated by Portugal at the quarter-final stage. Overdue.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe)
Foden faces stern competition for a place in England’s frontline, with each of Raheem Sterling, Jack Grealish, Marcus Rashford and Bukayo Saka having scored in Qatar, and Stones does not envy Southgate’s dilemma.
“It’s the hardest part of being a manager, choosing that starting eleven and knowing there’s eleven happy players and the rest aren’t,” Stones added.
“We’ve got an incredible group here, and the boys who don’t make the pitch or come on are very selfless and they put their own feelings aside for the group.
“That’s part of our success. I don’t envy managers in general when they’ve got to make those decisions.”
While England’s tally of nine goals at this World Cup is the most they have scored in the group stages at a major tournament, back-to-back clean sheets also aided their bid to top Group B.
Stones’ central defensive partner Harry Maguire has been heavily criticised after slipping down the pecking order at Manchester United, and the City man believes his response has been exemplary.
“Right from the first game, he’s given the best response with what he’s been doing. In all three games, he’s been terrific,” Stones said of Maguire.
“Knowing what he’s been going through and knowing the person he is, it speaks volumes about him to come through that and still believe in himself, like I believed in him and all his team-mates did.
“I think there was a lot of noise from outside which he’s not listened to, and he’s tried to improve and better himself, and he’s come into this tournament and hit the ground running. That’s great credit to him.”
— England (@England)