PEP GUARDIOLA has finally told Phil Foden how to become a regular starter for Manchester City: Calm down.
Foden, 20, is emerging as one of England’s best midfield talents of his generation – and comparisons are already being made to some of the Three Lions’ all-time greats.
He made his international senior debut last September and is a firm favourite to be included in Gareth Southgate’s 23-man squad for this summer’s Euros.
But he is yet to become a permanent figure in Guardiola’s City outfit – making just 13 starts this campaign despite such impressive cameos on the pitch.
Guardiola has been hesitant to chuck Foden into the spotlight since giving him his full debut in November 2017 as a 17-year-old.
Now, the Spanish coach has opened up on how Foden can change this – and remarkably it involves sprinting LESS.
Guardiola said: “He is a top, top player, but he is still playing football in one rhythm. He has to combine different rhythms to be an exceptional player.
“He makes all the actions in one explosion. When you play in the middle you have to be calmer. But maybe it is because he is 20 years old.
“He has an incredible energy to do everything. This is normal.
"It doesn’t mean he is going to change now. That comes with time and seasons. The game by game.
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“He will realise what he has to improve in that position. The rest of him is a top player.
“He is so good in his individual action but he has to understand the game in a global when you want to play in the middle.
“It is not that he cannot do it, but because he is still 20 years old. Every player is better at 28 than when they were 20.
“But he has the desire and the potential. He was patient enough and he has to continue to be patient.
“He loves the club and I am pretty sure if there is one player who can do it, he is the one.”
Guardiola is no stranger to being intense with his own players in order to get the best out of them, evident when he gave Raheem Sterling a dressing down on the pitch after they had won the FA Cup final in 2019.
Speaking to Rio Ferdinand on BT Sport, Guardiola added: “It is my personality.
"I am not fake in that way. I have apologised many times to my players for my behaviour but I am like this.
“They have to do well and I push them to do well. The human being has a tendency to relax but at this team with me they are not going to do that. They have to be better and better.
“Look at the big athletes like tennis with Nadal, Federer, Djokovic, and then Lebron James, they are thinking of the next one.
“They don’t live about what they have done or saying how good it is. The greatest go to the shower after winning the title and are thinking of the next one. You cannot stop.
“If you like it, it isn’t stress or difficult it is just natural. It is never a punishment or something they have done wrong.
"It is always to improve and make better to achieve more titles. This is the only target.”
Guardiola extended his contract with Man City back in November until 2023 – and he accepts that he will be expected to lift the Champions League during that time.
He said: “I will have this pressure for the rest of my time here in England and I know it. I accept it. But the new contract wasn’t just about that.
“I had the feeling that we can play better with some new players and extend the way we played and extending our quality for longer.
“But I cannot deny I would love what we have done in the Premier League to be done in Europe, to be incredibly consistent during four years.
“I cannot deny we could not do it in Europe. Hopefully this season we can make the next step.”
City are currently on a 21-game winning run in all competitions as they cruise towards the title for the third time in four years.
And Guardiola has revealed what the turning point was after their last defeat in November against Tottenham.
He explained: “After we drew 1-1 at home to West Brom, I went to myself, and to the staff and my friends, ‘I don’t like the team – I don’t like the way we play’.
“I didn’t recognise my team the way we should play. We just came back to the principles of A, B, C. That’s all.
“Wingers high and wide and a lot of players in the middle and run like animals and with the ball be calmer with more passes.
“Before we were moving up, down, right, left without knowing exactly what we had to do with the ball.
“We would just attack, attack, so quick, everyone was so quick and in football there has to be some pause and you have to change the rhythm.
“If you play high, high then afterwards you cannot surprise the opponent.”
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