Team Guardiola midfielder Phil Foden used to make fun of his friends for playing in the Champions League final as they kicked the ball in the streets of Stockport.
In five days, it will be no more. Just after his 21st birthday, he will be playing for the most significant award in European football.
“Sounds like a dream come true,” midfielder Foden said.
“I never thought it would happen so quickly. I always laughed and joked with my teammates about playing in the Champions League final. But I never thought I would play in one.
“Everything went very quickly. I just want to enjoy the event as much as possible because you never know if you will get another chance.”
After lifting the Premier League trophy on Sunday, the Pep Guardiola side will face Chelsea in the Porto final. At the Estadio do Dragao on Saturday.
The Champions League title has long been aimed at the club since it was won by its owners based in Abu Dhabi in 2008. And they have repeatedly reached the final stages of the competition over the years, finally gaining fame.
“We are all massively always looking forward to it to come now,” Foden said. “We can only play like the way that we always used to play every other game and then enjoy it.”
Asked how much of a threat Thomas Tuchel faces at Chelsea, Foden said: “It’s a significant threat. They’ve beaten us twice in the past. It shows how big a team they are.
“With any manager who is coming in, they do look much better. So it will be a big challenge. We look forward to that.”
‘A lot of credit goes to Guardiola’
Foden can now claim to be a three-time Premier League champion despite his age. He participated in city championship campaigns for 2017-18, 2018-19, and now 2020-21.
But having played 28 of the best games and scored nine goals this season, which is much higher than in previous campaigns. He lists recent victories as his current best.
“It just felt very special to me because I have always played a lot of games. And scored significant goals,” he said.
“We started small, and I think we were in 12th place at the same time. But it shows our character that we are going to win the league again the way we did.
“I would say that it’s always less than the hard training that we do every day. The manager works hard with us and just gets back to basics.”
Foden added: “I just feel like I have now come to my game this year. And I became more of myself.
“We have got a lot of things to improve and a lot to improve.”
He gives his manager Guardiola credit who has nurtured Foden’s talent. During his time at the club, and has previously called him the “most talented player” he has ever seen.
“Most of the credit for our success goes to the manager, for training me in the way he does and for helping me. And the players as well,” Foden said.
“They do help me to play better. So it’s a small thing for both of them.
“I was very young when Guardiola had come to the team as a manager. And there were so many players here. I couldn’t get a chance until there were only a few players left.
“Now I’m doing very well, and I always want to keep the pace in good form.”
England has a ‘very big chance’ at Euro 2020
That good form saw him recognized by England manager Gareth Southgate last year. Foden made his international debut against Iceland on 5 September.
He is in line to be selected to participate in the postponed Euro 2020 tournament this summer, which will be announced on Tuesday.
“If I am selected, it will be a dream come true to play. In my first major tournament,” said Foden, who won the Under-17 World Cup with England in 2017.
“All I can say is that there are lots of exciting times still to come ahead. And I look forward to it.”
England has been drawn into Group D alongside Croatia. The Czech Republic and Scotland, with all three games to be played on home soil at Wembley Stadium.
Reach the last 16, and they will get to play in London again. The semi-finals and finals will also be held at Wembley.
I asked how much of a home opportunity there would be for the Southgate team. Foden replied: “I think it’s always a great opportunity for me. There are a lot of players who are still at the top of their game.
“I do think that we have had an excellent attack everywhere on the pitch wherever we go.
“It should now be a purpose of headache for Gareth to select a team. But that shows how good the players are. So I think we can start aiming to win things now.”