Euro 2024: England combo with Bellingham will grow – Foden

After a shaky start to England‘s European Championship campaign that had critics questioning his starting spot, Phil Foden has insisted his partnership with Jude Bellingham will only flourish.

Foden was a headliner in Premier League last season, scoring 27 goals for Manchester City across all competitions to win the Premier League Footballer of the Year award.

But lining up on the left of a front three in England’s 1-0 win over Serbia, with Bellingham occupying the central No. 10 position in which Foden has thrived with City, he drifted out of the game.

“Jude’s obviously an exceptional talent,” Foden said in a Football Association video.

“He’s a leader now, I think he’s turning into a leader. I think our link-up play is good at times and I think it’s improving as well, and can keep getting better. So he’s an exciting talent and I enjoy playing with him.”

While some chalked up Sunday’s performance as just a bad game for Foden, it drew criticism from some pundits.

“I don’t think Phil Foden played well, he didn’t get into it,” former England striker Ian Wright told the BBC. “People talk about Foden and his positions. I can understand that because of how good he is as a footballer, but he didn’t get into the game.

“We can’t always blame the system. He needs to make it happen for himself and demand the ball.”

Former Spain midfielder Cesc Fabregas said players with Foden’s talent have the quality to hold the ball anywhere on the pitch.

“It’s about do you want it enough to make a difference and hold the ball for your team? Do you want to make things happen? Do you enjoy getting the ball under pressure?” Fabregas said. “I think players like Foden, they need to step up.”

Foden, who City manager Pep Guardiola has described as the “most talented player” he has ever seen, struggled during his European Championship debut three years ago as well, and was taken out of the team after England’s opening two games.

The 24-year-old’s performance at the 2022 World Cup was a far different story. His first appearance was as a 71st-minute substitute against Iran. He then scored in England’s 3-0 win over Wales, and then assisted goals by Harry Kane and Bukayo Saka in their 3-0 win over Senegal in the round of 16.

“I think the first game of a major tournament is always the most difficult,” Foden said of the Serbia win that England nearly blew with a nervy second half. “Obviously, we had to defend at times and dig deep.

“But I think that shows a different side to us and if we’re going to win something, I think that we have to do that.”

England, who sit top of Group C, face Denmark on Thursday in Frankfurt and close out the group stage against Slovenia on June 25.