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Nine years on from Andres Iniesta’s Euro masterclass – can Stockport’s own emulate his success?

Nine years ago, Spain completed a hat-trick of major international trophies with victory at Euro 2012.

Their triumph was one of process and philosophy, a potent blend of Barcelona artistry, Real Madrid elitism, and a dash of Fernando Torres’ briefly rediscovered youth.

They were a collective, more than a team in many ways, but still one player shone bright enough to catch the eye among an embarrassment of jewels.

Andres Iniesta was named Man of the Match in the final and Player of the Tournament.

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An image worthy of the Louvre

An image worthy of the Louvre

Catch up to modern day and much of the pre-Euro 2020 hype, at least on English shores, centres around Phil Foden.

Man City’s academy product is blessed with enough natural talent and technical ability to have warranted the moniker ‘the Stockport Iniesta’.

The nickname started out as a bit of fun but has become more sincere with each passing week of the current season.

At the start of 2020/21, making Gareth Southgate’s 23-man squad for Euro 2020 (now expanded to 26) would have been seen as an excellent achievement – had the competition not been delayed to due to Covid-19 he would probably have watched his compatriots from the comfort of his sofa.

Now there is widespread clamour for the starting XI to be built around him, such has been the accomplished nature of his performances in the Premier League and Champions League.

But is it realistic to expect to Stockport’s answer to Iniesta to emulate the efforts of the Spaniard and be crowned Player of the Tournament come mid-July?

In the future Iniesta will be known as ‘the Albacete Foden’

In the future Iniesta will be known as ‘the Albacete Foden’

Foden is in a sweet spot of his career where he is not established enough for there to be unmanageable pressure on him to perform but his upward trajectory is steep enough that Euro 2020 could provide the perfect platform for his next ascension.

While the tongue-in-cheek nickname is undoubtedly flattering, Foden is already shaping up to be a different kind of player to Iniesta.

The two share an innate comfort in possession and a Pep Guardiola education but the Englishman has a keener eye for goal.

Iniesta never reached double-figures for goals in a single season for Barcelona – he fulfilled other necessary duties with aplomb – finishing his 16-season tenure at the Nou Camp with 57 goals in all competitions.

Foden has scored 14 goals for Man City this season with three games to go.

The 20-year-old was expected to fill David Silva’s shoes at the Etihad but instead he’s played his best football as the left-hand prong of City’s attacking trident – he’s even dabbled in some false nine action.

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How Southgate plans to use Foden remains to be seen.

Marcus Rashford and Raheem Sterling both prefer to play from the left while Harry Kane’s goalscoring pedigree means there’s nothing false about England’s centre-forward.

Perhaps Foden will be deployed from the right, where fellow youngsters Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka specialise.

Whatever the case, recent displays have led many to conclude that Foden is capable of playing in key role in ending England’s 55 years of hurt.

Though Euro 2020 will be his first senior tournament, he will be able to draw from positive experience in such an environment – he won the Golden Ball at the Under-17 World Cup when England’s lion cubs were victorious in 2017.

Granted, that is not the same as Iniesta rocking up to Euro 2012 having won the same competition four years before and scored the winner in a World Cup final during the interim.

Discussing whether the term ‘generational talent’ is overused

Discussing whether the term ‘generational talent’ is overused

It’s early days but Foden is already a popular man among Dream Team Euros gaffers.

He currently appears in 36.4% of teams, making him the third-most popular player in his position overall with only Kevin De Bruyne (61.5%) and Bruno Fernandes (48.5%) above him.

The key difference is that Man City’s wonderkid costs just £4.0m while the two more experienced midfielders are both priced at £6.0m.

Will you back the Stockport Iniesta this summer?

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