Most Manchester City fans would have been in awe of Wayne Rooney at the 2004 European Championship In Portugal.
They might not have been if they knew Rooney would join Manchester United after the tournament, though.
While it was clear Rooney was one of the most exciting young players in the world after exploding into Everton’s first team after just turning 17-years-old, the lad from Merseyside soon made a name for himself on the international stage in spectacular fashion.
England went to Euro 2004 with Sven-Goran Eriksson in charge, and while that squad was decorated with players such as John Terry, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Paul Scholes and Michael Owen, it was a fresh-faced Rooney that demanded attention.
Rooney delivered some exhilarating performances at that tournament, his every touch of the ball exquisite and silky, his swagger on the ball smattered with the hallmarks of the naivety of youth, but it was vindicated – quite simply, no one could stop him.
The way Rooney played football was enchanting, he boasted flair in abundance and world-class technical ability that was traditionally coached out of the English game, but somehow here he was, winning over the hearts of fans around the country with his natural gift.
But Rooney didn’t just dazzle with the ball at his feet, his habit of finding goals made him indispensable to that England side and he scored four in that competition, firing England to the quarter-finals where he was forced off through injury against the host nation.
Portugal delivered England’s demise in that game, winning on penalties after the game ended in a draw, but while Rooney would go on to enjoy a remarkable career – something City fans had to live with – the style in which he played in Portugal didn’t really return.
Would we ever find an English player of that calibre and exuberance again? Enter the Blues’ very own Phil Foden.
With the benefit of hindsight, It’s bizarre to think Pep Guardiola‘s handling of Foden was every question by some pundits and media alike, the Stockport lad has been quietly integrated into the City squad in recent seasons and the City boss’ patience looks inspired.
Foden, 21, was crowned PFA Young Player of the Year last week and after adding that individual honour to his ridiculous collection of three Premier Leagues, four League Cups and one FA Cup, he’ll be ready for this summer’s Euros with England.
Guardiola has been left with no choice but to hand Foden more responsibility in this conquering City side this term. The youngster’s displays have been outstanding and it’s a testament to his talent that he’s flawlessly adapted to predominantly playing on the left.
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The way Foden plays the game is reminiscent of Rooney at Euro 2004, and the City academy graduate encapsulates the quintessential Guardiola player. It’s almost like he’s been manufactured to perfection, but in reality he was gradually moulded at Platt Lane.
Foden was raised supporting City while playing football on the streets and his approach to the game is a throwback to his youth, he plays like Rooney or Paul Gascoigne, keeping company with a few English players that defied the system and remained their genius.
Yes, he’s already established as one of the world’s finest young prospects, but Foden could have a ‘breakout’ tournament at Euro 2021. It certainly won’t be a surprise if he lights up the competition with his quality that City fans have the privilege to watch every week.