ONE way or another, Phil Foden will come of age this weekend.
The Manchester City star turns 21 on Friday — and a day later he will aim to become a European champion with his boyhood club.
The Champions League final, which he has loved watching since he was a boy, often fell on Foden’s birthday as he was growing up.
It has not quite happened this year but what a double celebration it would be if the midfielder lifts the biggest prize in club football on Saturday night.
He hopes his family will be in Porto’s Dragao Stadium to see him go up against Chelsea and knows they will be pinching themselves.
The England ace said: “They just keep telling me that they can’t believe I’m going to play in the Champions League final.
“We watched it when I was younger. It used to be on my birthday, by the way, but it’s changed now.
“So, yeah, they just can’t believe it. Hopefully they can make it to the game and watch. That would be a special moment for me.”
Several of the big Champions League nights he enjoyed as a boy involved the Barcelona team managed by a certain Pep Guardiola.
His favourite players were the midfield maestros Xavi and Andres Iniesta and he studied their matches long and hard.
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Foden — nicknamed the Stockport Iniesta — added: “I just remember growing up and they dominated football for years, winning everything.
“I’d watch it with my dad and think ‘Wow! What a team this is and what a coach they have!’ So, he has tried to bring that kind of football here and it seems to be working.
“Definitely, they played a big part in my career, watching them when I was younger, and it helps as well, now that the manager’s here.
“I understand how he plays and how he wants to play. It helps a lot.
“It was unbelievable; the way he set them up and how they played one-touch and two-touch football.
“I never would have thought that he would be my coach someday. I feel very lucky to have him and like I said, I enjoy it every day, working with him.
“There are a lot of very technical players, like David Silva, Iniesta, Xavi. So, I looked up to all those kinds of players the most.
“I’m trying to, not copy them, but learn bits of their game and just take it into mine.”
Foden wrote his own little bit of European history when he starred in both legs against Borussia Dortmund in the last eight.
It was significant to everyone at the Etihad because it meant they had finally got past the quarter-final hoodoo which had haunted Guardiola throughout his tenure in Manchester.
He said: “It was such a big occasion and, in the past, we’ve struggled to get past those stages before.
“So, to score two important goals for the team, I know how much it means for us and for the team going forward.
“I’d definitely have to say they were my most important goals. I just want to keep going and hopefully I can take it into the final.”
Foden has 16 goals to his name this campaign, now he is looking forward to the biggest game in European football.
But he plans not to think too much about the size of the occasion and just go out and enjoy his football — just like he used to do on the streets of Stockport when he was a lad.
He said: “I try not to put too much pressure on myself. I’m just going to go into the final the same way as any other game — just smiling and saying let’s see how it goes.
“So, nothing’s going to change how I prepare. Everything’s just going to be the same.
“My earliest football memories are when I was around five or six, just playing out with my friends on the streets, and having little matches and enjoying myself.
“We have a little park where there’s two goals, and it’s a concrete cage. We used to go in there and play most days and every day, all day long.
“That is where I learned to play football. Having the ball at my feet is one of the best feelings.”
Foden has matured since then and now he hopes to put the seal on what has already been a memorable season for the club.
The Premier League and Carabao Cup are already in the bag — now he looks to add a European flavour to his growing collection.
He said: “It’s a shame to not have the crowd that we normally have, but the games that we’ve played we have been fantastic this year as a team, and I’ve just enjoyed it a lot.
“Hopefully we can go that one more step in the final.”
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