Manchester City's Phil Foden emerged onto the scene as a fresh-faced yet fearless teenager back in 2017. Fast forward a few years and he’s one of the most decorated young players the game has ever seen.
The phrase, ‘the sky’s the limit’, has been applied to many ballers over the years, but very few have reached the dizzying heights Foden has. Five Premier League titles. Two FA Cups. One Champions League trophy. And don’t forget about that UEFA Super Cup. The two-time PFA Young Player of the Year has never done things by halves, and the same can be said for his latest collaboration with jewellery brand Cernucci.
Foden’s Cernucci gems feature the Manchester City winger’s take on key styles from the brand’s existing catalogue including chains, bracelets, rings and earrings. Colours ranging from icy blue, purple and green make up the range, with Foden’s individual style influencing each design.
As fashion and football become even more intertwined, the game’s seeing more and more players express themselves through style. Foden’s partnership with Cernucci is another example of self-expression, something he’s never shied away from when balling out for club or country - hence his nickname, ‘The Stockport Iniesta’ - but something he's experimenting with more off the pitch as he gets older.
VERSUS linked up Foden, not too far from his hometown, to talk about his latest collaboration with Cernucci, why footballers have always chosen to express themselves through jewellery, whether he’d like to see ‘tunnel fits’ in the Prem and football's growing interest in player expression.
Photography by Niall Hodson for VERSUS.
VERSUS: What was it about Cernucci as a brand that resonated with you?
Phil Foden: I’ve kept an eye on their stuff for a while now, and it was actually Madders (James Maddison) who I first saw get involved with them, which really interested me. So to now be partnering with them myself, it’s a really good feeling.
The collection looks solid. There’s a lot of statement pieces, like the one you’re wearing today around your neck, how would you go about styling this range – do you have certain fits in mind?
I like to keep it quite plain so that the jewellery stands out: black jeans, black top, just keeping things simple and letting the pieces do their thing. That goes for my style in general to be honest. I go through periods where I might change it up a little and wear something that’s a bit more colourful or different, but at the moment – with it being so cold as well! – it’s definitely trackie season, all the more reason to keep it plain and chilled.
Chains feature heavily in your Cernucci collab, and historically, footballers have loved wearing them. Ronaldinho. David Beckham. Ian Wright. They all donned one – or a few – both on and off the pitch during their careers. What is it about jewellery, specifically chains, that footballers love?
Footballers – especially the ones you’ve just mentioned – have a lot of personality, sometimes they show that by the way they play, by the way they dress or both. So, I feel like when they’re wearing jewellery it’s part of them expressing themselves. Showing their style, character, the type of person they are. I wasn’t really old enough to truly watch the likes of Ronaldinho, Beckham and Wrighty play but they’re icons of the game, and they all chose to express themselves how they thought best. That’s really important to me; being my own person.
Those players might have been pioneers when it came to freedom of expression, but we’re seeing more and more players – like yourself – trying to do that off the pitch through fashion.
It seems like fashion and football are more connected than ever, why do you think that is?
Beckham was definitely one of the biggest to do it, and really kicked it off in the game, especially in England. I started watching his documentary recently, and I really enjoyed that side of it – looking at his life off the pitch and how he expressed himself.
Obviously, back then it was a bigger thing to express yourself in that way, and I don’t feel like a lot of personalities came through with a lot of players. But now, with social media especially, a lot more people are interested in what I do off the pitch, whereas previous generations probably wouldn’t have cared that much. I like it though, it allows me to do deals like this one with Cernucci and explore even more opportunities outside of playing the game.
Of course clothing is a huge part of style and expression, but something else players pay big attention to nowadays is how their hair looks. What’s your barber routine?
Once a week at the moment! You know, I’m always on TV playing a game, so it just gives you a nice feeling going into a football match. I’ve always thought: “if you look good, you’ll play good.”
Let’s take you back to 2021. Euros. Gazza. The platinum look we were all loving. Would you say that playing with a hairstyle like that — being a bit bold at times — allows you to express yourself more?
I see a lot of kids copying my hairstyle, and it’s cool to see people interested in that part of my self-expression. Apart from the Gazza look, I’ve pretty much had the same cut for a while, it’s routine for me which is something I really value. I feel like I’ve got OCD at times — doing the same things and sticking to what works best for me, and my hair is a part of that.
At the Euros when I picked up an injury, part of me was like: “is it because I changed my hair?” I don’t know, I’m a bit weird like that at times! Quite superstitious.
A lot of other sports, say the NBA for example, really hone in on the personality behind the player through things like ‘tunnel fits’. Football clubs like Barça are doing stuff like that – would you say that interests you?
Yeah, like in the Champions League, we have a more fashion-based approach with DSquared, and they have some really nice pieces. But in the league, expressing ourselves that way is definitely something I’d like to see more of in the future, 100%.
Is it these kinds of campaigns with Cernucci for example, that make you excited about where the space is heading?
Definitely. It has a lot of people talking, especially when the billboards go up. So, yeah, it all feels a bit surreal, especially having people I haven’t talked to in a while sending photos around where I grew up and worldwide too. It’s really nice to see.
What’s your favourite piece in the collection?
There are a few I really like, some good variety in there with chains and rings. But, I’d probably have to say the one on my wrist, but it’s unreleased, so I can’t reveal too much about that one for now!
As for the creative process, did you have a hands-on approach?
Definitely. It was nice to have a say and make it my own. There’s a lot of blue, of course, keeping things light but having some different styles and designs was something I wanted to have. Everyone has got different tastes, so making sure that variety was in there was really important for me.
The Cernucci x Phil Foden collection is available to purchase now via cernucci.com