Pep Guardiola hailed the performance of Phil Foden after the youngster was handed a starting chance in Manchester City’s Champions League victory over Hoffenheim.
Leroy Sane scored twice as City came from behind to beat the Bundesliga outfit 2-1 at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday and secure top spot in Group F.
Highly-rated teenager Foden shone in midfield, particularly as City took firm charge of the game in the second half, having been given a long-awaited opportunity by Guardiola following a spate of injuries.
The 18-year-old almost got on the scoresheet himself when he forced a fine save from Oliver Baumann with a fierce left-foot volley.
Guardiola said: “Phil was incredible, the way he played.
“I would never have doubts about the quality of that guy. It is not just the quality with the ball. He looks skinny, not strong, but he’s really, really strong.
“He’s an outstanding young player, a huge talent. I think England has a diamond.
“He’s special, he has had minutes and in the future will have a lot of them. He played like a real man. He played so good.”
Hoffenheim took an early lead with a penalty from former Leicester striker Andrej Kramaric but City responded well and hit the woodwork twice before Sane equalised with a brilliant free-kick.
Sane secured victory just after the hour as he took one of several chances City created that could have made the win even more comfortable.
Germany international Sane, who may have been keen to prove a point to an audience from his homeland, did receive some abuse from visiting fans. After the weekend’s incident involving Raheem Sterling, this did attract some attention but there was no suggestion it was racial.
Asked about the matter, Guardiola said: “I don’t know if anything happened. If it happened it’s bad news but I don’t know.”
Going through to the last 16 as group winners will assure City of a better seeding in Monday’s draw.
Guardiola said: “Before they scored we were flat, they were better, but after the penalty we were normal and created a lot of chances.
“We finished group stage in the best way. We’re in the best 16 teams in Europe.
“It’s a big compliment to everyone involved in the group because it was tough. It’s more difficult in the Champions League because the opponents are so much better. If you sleep a little bit you are in Europa League.
“All our teams are there and it’s really good for the Premier League.”
Guardiola added that John Stones was withdrawn at half-time due to a “little problem” in his knee.
Hoffenheim finished bottom of the group with three points from three draws but, having reached this stage for the first time, coach Julian Nagelsmann was pleased with his players’ showing.
He said: “I’m proud of the way we have played in the Champions League. As a newcomer to the Champions League, we’ve played well. We’ve done a lot for the club and we hope to do more of this in the future.”