Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola insists he agrees with Gareth Southgate’s views on Phil Foden after he raised doubts about his current suitability to play in a central area for England.
The 23-year-old is one of the most precocious talents around but, as the player admits himself, has yet to take his form with Man City onto the international stage.
Foden has scored three times in 26 appearances for England and said in March that “hopefully I can adapt and become a midfielder”, stating “that’s my aim”.
Asked if he could deploy the Man City star in a midfield three rather than wide in big international games, Southgate said: “Well, he doesn’t for his club, so presumably there’s a reason for that.
“It depends on the level of the game, really. Obviously in the middle of the park everybody wants to talk about them with the ball, but there’s a lot of detail without the ball.
“In games like at the weekend (against Ukraine), you’re playing opponents that are so clever with their passing and movement that you’ve really got to be spot on with pressing angles, your responsibilities.
“If you don’t, then you don’t have the flow of the game, you don’t get the flow of the game. You’d have to speak with Pep (Guardiola), the best coach in the world, who plays him from wide. He’s always got the freedom to drift if we play him wide and that’s important.”
When asked about Southgate’s comments, Man City boss Guardiola replied: “We cannot be one of the best if the mentality says he cannot be one of the best. Having a target, everything starts with the belief. I have admiration for Gareth, looks like I would disagree but I agree with him. In the fact when we play outside it’s a different role.
“He knows I know Phil can play in all the positions, middle or outside. Gareth says the responsibility without the ball, have to be so smart to know what happens. Important is he can play in the five positions, a big advantage.
“I saw vs Scotland, starts on the right and moves inside. At the end not an issue. If we play higher the responsibility is less. The mentality is he wants to be one of the best, this is a big advantage.”
Man City signed Matheus Nunes from Wolves for £53m on transfer deadline day and Guardiola has revealed what the Portugal international still needs to improve.
Guardiola added: “We can play in the holding midfielder, attacking midfielder, fullback with his physicality. He has to improve the first contact, first touch. Try with the ball like Kevin, Kevin is incomparable.
“His energy, the balls in the last games as winger. The quality is so difficult to find. Dribble and make 10, 15, 20 metres. He will learn to be more precise in simple things, The way we train, he will get. He has the qualities a manager cannot improve which is so important.”