Foden has emerged as the rising sensation of English football in the last 12 months following a string of stand-out performances for Pep Guardiola's side.
The 20-year-old has started to establish himself in Guardiola's team as well as force his way into Gareth Southgate's England side ahead of this summer's Euros.
Etihad bosses have been desperate to sign Messi from Barcelona following the Argentine ace's public fall-out with the Spanish giants.
But City legend Goater is convinced the club don't have to lure Messi to Manchester - because they have someone capable of going on to follow in the mercurial man's footsteps.
Goater reckons Foden, who helped City destroy Chelsea 3-1 at Stamford Bridge last weekend, has the talent to become the best player in the world and even win the Ballon d'or, like Messi has done six times.
He said: "The world is at Phil Foden’s feet. I think he can really go all the way. I can see him standing on the podium and being on the shortlist for the Ballon d'Or.
"I know that's a huge thing to say about someone still so young, but he has this quality about him, and what I like about him is the energy he brings, the constant goal threat he brings - whether that's scoring or assisting - and as a midfielder these are great qualities.
"He can play anywhere and he will play anywhere. I can really see his future as being one of the best in the world.
"He's phenomenal for someone so young and I genuinely think in four or five years he could challenge for the Ballon d'or, he's got that much potential."
Foden is expected to line up for City in Wednesday’s crunch Carabao Cup semi-final showdown with neighbours Manchester United at Old Trafford.
City take on a United side high on confidence following an unbeaten run of 10 league games that has seen them charge to joint top of the table.
But Guardiola's men have been formidable in the League Cup after lifting it for the last three years in succession and remain determined to emulate Liverpool's historical achievement of four straight triumphs.
Goater, who scored over 100 goals for City between 1998 and 2003 and finished as the club's top scorer for four consecutive seasons, reckons Guardiola's men remain in the box seat ahead of what he thinks will be a 'spicy' tie.
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He added: "I want to see City win the competition again, but Manchester United are a club that, when in a semi-final, they know how to advance and they know how to win competitions.
"It'll be a spicy tie but the outcome of the game I think will largely depend on Guardiola and his tactics."
"Pep Guardiola takes this competition very seriously. He's won it three times since being at City and he'll be wanting to win it again.
"He's a serial winner and it's a trophy that means a lot to Pep and the club. He's educated English football with the way that he plays and he wants to win every competition."