Manchester City defender Kyle Walker believes 18-year-old Phil Foden has the talent and attitude to step up in the absence of injured Kevin de Bruyne.
Belgian midfielder De Bruyne was widely hailed as City’s player of the year as Pep Guardiola’s men racked up a record 100 Premier League points and also lifted the League Cup last season.
De Bruyne suffered a knee injury in training on Wednesday that is expected to keep him sidelined for at least two months.
Foden starred as City comfortably beat Chelsea 2-0 to win the Community Shield earlier this month and is believed to be on the brink of a call-up to the England squad after leading his country to win the Under-17 World Cup last year.
“Phil’s got a great attitude, a great player, and more importantly, he’s a great lad.
“He wants to learn, he’s keen to listen. I’ve met a lot of young players throughout my career now who’ve kind of got a chip on their shoulder but he’s definitely not one of them.
“He’s one of those who wants to learn and I think he shows that in his performances — he’s keen, he’s energetic, he’s keeping people on their toes really.”
Walker was part of the England squad who reached the semi-finals of a World Cup for the first time in 28 years in Russia this summer.
Foden also made the trip as a fan to support his team-mates, and Walker hailed his hunger to one day star himself on the international stage.
“Obviously Phil has been very fortunate in his first season around the squad to pick up a Premier League medal. Not many kids can say that they’ve done that. But he’s not rested on that.
“He could have come back from the summer, not really trained hard, gone and partied or whatever — which young kids do nowadays — but he’s not done that.
“You can see he’s been working hard, he was even out in Russia so that’s how much he loves the game of football.”
Despite the blow of losing De Bruyne, City remain heavy favourites to become the first side in a decade to retain the Premier League.
Guardiola has promised he will be far tougher on his players this season and there was no sense of complacency in an impressive 2-0 win at Arsenal to open their title defence last weekend.
“There’s been a big change,” said Walker on Guardiola’s demands. “Obviously he’s not settling for one title and we’re not as well – we want more.”
Guardiola won three successive titles in Spain and Germany with Barcelona and Bayern Munich.
And Walker is targeting a similar period of domination by the Catalan coach in England.
“I don’t want to sound big headed but we want to dominate English football. I think we’ve got the players here, and we’ve definitely got the manager, to do that.
“We’re definitely not satisfied with one title. I’ve not just signed here to pick up my first Premier League title and then say, okay, I’ll rest on that. I’m hungry for a lot more.”
© Agence France-Presse (additional edits by Cillian Cunningham)