Manchester City's young England international Phil Foden has enjoyed a breakthrough season during the run to Saturday's Champions League final against Chelsea and captain Fernandinho believes he has benefited from gradual exposure to the big-time.
Foden, who celebrates his 21st birthday on Friday, has long been identified as one of the most exciting talents in English football and City manager Pep Guardiola has faced constant questions about his playing time since handing him his debut as a 17-year-old.
But this year Foden has moved from being a player of potential to a regular starter with 16 goals and 10 assists in all competitions.
"Its no surprise at all. Foden has trained with us almost five years," Fernandinho told a news conference on Friday.
"He grew up so much and the quality he has is hard to find in other players. The desire he has to play good football is incredible."
Foden has been particularly impressive in the Champions League, scoring in both legs of the quarter-final with Borussia Dortmund and grabbing an assist in the second-leg of the semi with Paris Saint Germain.
"He grew up so much in this competition this season, especially getting more minutes. He kept his head down and his feet on the ground and that's one of the reason he's at the level he's at now," the Brazilian added.
Fernandinho believes Foden had to learn how to play within City's style of football, where positional sense and timing of passing is vital.
"You have to understand your team-mates. The movements they make, when you have to pass the ball, when you have to drive the ball. He learned so much in the past years and that's one of the seasons he became one of the most important players in this squad," he said.
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