Forget about what Phil Foden and Mason Mount can do next – this is their moment now.
Saturday’s Champions League final is a chance for them to show why they are special, in one of the biggest games they will ever play.
Everyone knows Foden and Mount already belong among the best young players in Europe, not just England. We’ve seen that from the way they have helped Manchester City and Chelsea get here – they have become vital for their teams’ results this season.
But winning the final is like the cherry on the cake. The trophy will acknowledge their greatness.
That won’t matter to either of them now, of course. They will just want to win.
I was the same before my first European Cup final, with AC Milan in 1989. In that moment, the game was the only thing that mattered. I didn’t care how we won it, we just had to win.
At the end of your career is when you look back and realise what you have achieved, because of the fact that other people will always mention it to you.
Win a European Cup or a Champions League and you will always be in the history books. Foden and Mount will both know that.
But for yourself, while you are playing, you just want as many trophies as possible. You don’t do it for the fame or for the chance of being told where it puts you as a player.
‘Foden and Mount are both Barcelona players’
The world is looking for the next Lionel Messi but, please, don’t compare either Foden or Mount to him. It’s not fair, because it’s not possible to be another Messi.
He is a total one-off. They can be their own players, and have their own great careers but they won’t do what Messi has done.
When I chose Foden as my Premier League player of the year, I said he was in Messi’s category, but I meant in the type of player he is, not the level he is at.
Foden could have been a Barcelona player, like Messi, Andres Iniesta or Xavi, and he is not a typical English player. Mount is the same.
I think it’s important to realise why there are more players like this coming through at English teams, because it has not always been like this.
The typical English player when I came to play here in 1995 was a big, strong player with head wounds and bruises and things like that. That’s over.
This new generation is different, they are all technical players. Smaller, skilful, agile. Wonderful footballers. You want them in your team, and you want to get them on the ball.
England have produced some of those before, of course, but I don’t think they were always given a proper chance in the Premier League. Now they are trusted more.
You are lucky to have them, but it is also lucky that they have had the right coaches. With Foden and Mount it was Pep Guardiola, Frank Lampard and Thomas Tuchel who gave them their opportunity.
‘I’m so pleased his talent is being recognised now’
Until this season Foden was a player who came in and out of the City side but Pep used him carefully in that way in order to develop him. It has worked very well, because for the past few months he has been unbelievable.
People kept telling Foden he had to leave on loan to get more games, but he was also training with Pep and playing with all the best players around him at City. What better place to be to grow?
Foden has won a lot of trophies already with City, but of course he wants to have this one too. Look how desperate Pep is to win the Champions League again after winning it with Barcelona. He’s on a mission, and so are his players.
Mount came through a difficult situation too, because everyone called him ‘the son of Lampard’ when he first came through, and the Chelsea fans were not all with him – they thought he was just the manager’s favourite.
But Mount has showed how good he is under the new coach too. We’ve seen that Tuchel needs him, and that Lampard was right – he is better than most people thought.
He ended up being voted Chelsea’s player of the year by their fans and I’m so pleased his talent is being recognised now. This is just the start for him too.
‘To arrive at the top is the easy part, but to remain there is the most difficult part’
In the past, English teams bought in players like Foden and Mount from other countries. Now they are producing them themselves, lots of them. They don’t need to go abroad to find them, because they have them in their own backyard, right under their noses.
That’s good for the Premier League, and huge for the national team. There is a generation of English players like Foden and Mount who are not just skilful, they are also quick, strong, versatile and have a brain. They need it, to understand what they are being asked to do.
Of course there will be hype and people asking if they can be the greatest, but let’s not put extra pressure on them by wondering what they might do.
Foden is 20, Mount is 22. Just let them develop, and enjoy watching them. That’s what I am going to do on Saturday night.
One of them will lose this Champions League final, of course. But they will just be driven to come back and win next time.
It will be the same for the winner because, when you do that, and get your hands on that trophy, you want another one. You understand what it does to you, what it means to you – and you want more.
To arrive at the top is the easy part, but to remain there is much more difficult – you have to prove yourself again and again. That’s how I felt and I was able to win it again the following year.
Whether that happens for Foden and Mount or not, there is a lot more to come from them, that’s for sure.