Phil Foden vs David Beckham: Who was better?

  • Phil Foden among England's star players heading to Euro 2024
  • David Beckham starred for Three Lions for 13 years
  • Assessing and analysing who was and is the better player
England's wizards of past and present
England's wizards of past and present / 90min

Right from when you enter school, football has the power to turn you into a star.

In those adolescent days, it was freedom of the playground and ability to leave classes early for team commitments. In your teens, you could have a sniff of making it at a real club. If you do make it as a professional, you can become your own brand.

David Beckham set the trend for footballers to be more than just athletes. Nowadays, Phil Foden is hoping to take his talent beyond the pitch.

But who was/is better? It's a more interesting debate than you might think.

Eye test

Phil Foden
The way that boy moves / Mike Hewitt/GettyImages

We'll begin with by far the most subjective category, and one with the most subjective answer.

The beauty of Beckham and Foden is though they play the same position, their styles are completely different. They are on opposite ends of the spectrum but are both special in their own way.

There was no crosser of the ball better than Beckham. No one could match the combination of whip and power, make it look like an art of passing rather than hit-and-hope. Foden's magic comes through mazing dribbles and 25-yard screamers, which can stand out a little more in a sometimes robotic Manchester City team.

But let's say you were an alien.

Bear with us, this is going somewhere.

Say you were an alien visiting Earth and had no idea what football was. What would you be more impressed by - the guy using his right leg like a golf club to whack the ball 50 yards, or the guy whose got the ball glued to his left boot?

It's very, very, very tough to choose between them. We'll go with Foden, but won't judge you if you think otherwise.



Games played



Goals and assists



Goals and assists-per-game

David Beckham








Phil Foden








An important asterisk next to Beckham's numbers is a lot of them precede the starting point from where Opta began collecting reliable data in the mid-2000s, so some calculations may be off.

That said, he did very well to match Foden over the course of a full career given the team his younger has come into at City and how football is geared towards forwards building up their stats in the modern day.

Foden gets the edge, but it's ever so slight.


Landon Donovan, David Beckham
Yes, this counts / Jeff Gross/GettyImages

Wow, we did not think this one was going to be this close.

Beckham hung up his boots having won a total of 19 trophies all over the world. For Foden, he's currently on 18.

It's tight. If you want to get picky, the legitimacy of Foden's 17 club trophies in this conversation could come into question if City don't get their act together off the pitch. They're fine for now, though. Don't get your underwear in a twist, alright?

International career

Diego Simeone, David Beckham
Beckham went through it all / GERARD CERLES/GettyImages

While Foden has at least been around for some of England's recent exploits, he is yet to truly make his mark on the international stage. That brace against Wales at the 2022 World Cup was a decent start, but he has way more to deliver.

Beckham's England career alone was enough to warrant a Hollywood script. From the low of his 1998 World Cup red card to securing qualification to the 2002 tournament with the final kick of a draw with Greece, from captaining the Three Lions to acting as an extension of Fabio Capello's coaching staff in 2010.

Only Peter Shilton and Wayne Rooney played more often for England than Beckham did. He didn't exactly enjoy huge team success, but he retired as one of the country's favourite sons for sure.


David Beckham
The absolute coolest / Shaun Botterill/GettyImages

It's not even up for debate.

Beckham dared to go against Sir Alex Ferguson and became English football's first true on-and-off the pitch icon. His brand took him to Real Madrid, revolutionised football in the US with LA Galaxy and then just head to AC Milan and Paris Saint-Germain on loans like they were side quests.

Whether he had the armband or not, Beckham was a captain by pick or by nature. He was him.

Foden's drawbacks are that neutrals aren't enamoured with City the same way that Beckham's teams were. His only attempt to level up on the aesthetic meter was by dying his hair blond for Euro 2020, and he shrunk so much it became a forgotten narrative of that tournament.


David Beckham
It's Beckham until it isn't / Ben Radford/GettyImages

The section above was a ramble and rant about Beckham from a persona POV, but it's clear to get across the point that he was a truly remarkable footballer too.

When Manchester United won the treble in 1999, Beckham was the Red Devil representative on the Ballon d'Or podium, only beaten to first place by the great Rivaldo. You don't build such a following without the skill to back it up.

When all is said and done, Foden has a real chance of walking away from football as one of England's greatest ever players. His time will come. But for now, he'll have to make do with a silver medal when compared to Beckham.

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