Richard Buxton: Curious case of Manchester City’s Phil Foden
Young Lions rest 'tired' starlet, 3 others in must-win Romania game but play them in pointless Croatia tie
Phil Foden will never discover the perils of having too much too young.
Both club and country continue to treat the Manchester City midfielder with kid gloves; Pep Guardiola exercises caution, while Aidy Boothroyd opts for a somewhat confusing approach.
In the wake of England bowing out of the European Under-21 Championship yesterday morning (Singapore time), Boothroyd's stance appears even more bewildering.
The Young Lions' 3-3 draw with Croatia in San Marino was an entertaining yet pointless finale to a Group C campaign which should have extended beyond this high-scoring dead rubber.
Foden's reprised starring role made a mockery of Boothroyd's inexplicable decision to bench him for the must-win game against Romania.
Tiredness was supposedly at the heart of the England coach's reasoning - a claim reportedly met with bemusement by the dressing room.
The 19-year-old could be forgiven for feeling that it was all a case of history repeating itself.
His future City teammate Raheem Sterling also found himself omitted from England's Euro 2016 qualifier with Estonia on grounds of apparent fatigue.
Clearly the erstwhile Liverpool winger and his international teammates begged to differ on Roy Hodgson's assertion, too.
Guardiola's apprehension to throw Foden at the mercy of elite-level football saw his protege confined to 26 outings in all competitions last season, with only 11 coming as starts.
Yet there is a fine line between careful management and his current mishandling.
Foden's lack of burnout with the English Premier League champions ensured he would be tailor-made to lead England U-21s to glory at this summer's Finals.
He remains the poster boy for what the Football Association believes the future national side will ultimately resemble.
Right now, it is difficult to see when, or how, that ideology will actually come to fruition.
Steady progression appears an improbable route into Gareth Southgate's senior set-up.
Boothroyd's myopia was not exclusive to Foden, however.
He restricted Tammy Abraham, fresh from helping guide Aston Villa back into the EPL, to 14 minutes of competitive action before the Croatia clash. Playing solely for pride is, seemingly, far more important.
Crystal Palace right-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka was also dropped against Romania, supposedly due to being driven to distraction by a transfer saga as Manchester United continue to circle.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin, too, became another surprising omission against Croatia, despite the Everton forward proving an integral figure in qualifying for this summer's Championship.
Guardiola prides himself on an ability to improve already talented players. He elevated Sterling to a level that many believed was not within the newly crowned Player of the Year's armoury.
Foden, similarly, has become the Catalan's newest pet project for improvement.
Boothroyd, meanwhile, prefers to stifle the hype instead of cultivating it. He insisted that the teenager must be allowed to write his own story rather than fitting the agenda of others.
Except he chose to close the book on England's latest, and potentially glittering, chapter.
The 48-year-old insisted he will have to be "carried out" of the England U-21 post.
Publicly pointing the finger at the players for his tournament failure has made the decision to hand him a two-year contract before travelling to Italy now look an even greater oversight.
Guardiola and Boothroyd share a common bond in Foden's development.
But only one currently has the player's best interests at heart.