·3 October 2022
·3 October 2022
Kevin De Bruyne believes Phil Foden’s future lies in the centre of the pitch despite the Manchester City academy product flourishing on the wing and scoring his first club hat-trick in Sunday's Manchester derby.
Foden matched Erling Haaland's three-goal haul in a 6-3 evisceration of Manchester United at the Etihad and is City's second-highest top scorer this season with six in all competitions.
The 22-year-old's second goal of the day was his 50th for City and meant that he became the youngest player to hit that milestone under Pep Guardiola's management, reaching his half century 37 days earlier than Lionel Messi.
Foden's hat-trick also represented his first goals against United and the first to be scored in derby by a City player born in Greater Manchester in the Premier League era.
In just the first week of October, the reigning PFA Young Player of the Year is nearly halfway towards his goal output from the entirety of last season, and De Bruyne believes he will only get better.
When asked whether he believes Foden can improve, his City team-mate said: “He will because he's only 22. I know at 22 I wasn't the player that I am now. He's so good so it's trying to find consistency. He's been playing unbelievably for us so he will be here for a long time.”
Foden was long touted as the heir to David Silva in the centre of City's midfield and, although he has since been deployed wide by Guardiola, De Bruyne sees a move back to the middle of the park further down the line.
“What is he not good at? He can play in a lot of different positions,” De Bruyne added. “I think eventually he will end up playing centrally in my opinion but in this moment in time it is maybe a little bit better for him on the wing to have more freedom and fewer instructions so he flows into the game.
”I eventually see him playing more centrally when he gets older and gets more stamina. It's all about little details to just find more consistency in the performances.“
While Foden is set for a long and prosperous future at the Etihad, De Bruyne is now City's longest-serving player and - following the exit of Raheem Sterling - the only survivor from the season before Guardiola's arrival in the summer of 2016.
Sterling was followed out of the door by Gabriel Jesus, Oleksandar Zinchenko and club captain Fernandinho as part of a wider squad rebuild, but De Bruyne feels that the same spirit that led City to win the fourth Premier League title in five years last season has survived the summer's upheaval.
”I don't feel like the energy before was any different as a player - maybe there was from management. If you have a couple of players with one years left on their contract and they choose a different challenge, it's maybe best to get some money for them even if the players were so important for us.
“The guys who came in have done really well so we have to give props to them for coming in, changing teams and playing the way they are so it's good for us.”
De Bruyne reserved special praise for Manuel Akanji, the €17m signing from Borussia Dortmund who has slotted into the centre of City's defence seamlessly and was trusted to start ahead of Ruben Dias in Sunday's derby.
“He's been absolutely unreal,” De Bruyne said. “He came in, didn't train much and played absolutely great. It feels like he's been playing with us for a while. To have five centre-backs of the quality that we have, we are lucky. We will need them because we have seen that injuries can happen.”
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