Pep Guardiola hailed the importance of Ruben Dias as he encouraged other defenders in the squad to learn from the summer signing.
The 23-year-old from Benfica has had an unbelievable impact since joining for a club record fee at the end of September, with the team conceding just one goal more (seven) in the 18 Premier League games he has played in than in the two that he did not (one against Wolves and five against Leicester).
Such a reversal has inevitably led to comparisons with Virgil Van Dijk, who joined Liverpool in January 2018 and played a major role in their Champions League success in 2019 and maiden Premier League title a year later.
“Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely,” said Guardiola of talk of Dias being similar to Van Dijk as well as one of the most important City signings. “So far, how he’s settled immediately, in terms of mentality and he’s a guy who lives 24 hours for his profession.
“Every step he does, at home, on or off the pitch, eating, sleeping, recovering time, preparation time, everything is to be perfect during this 95-minute football game. That’s why. It depends on him to maintain and hopefully we can help him to grow. We are more than satisfied.”
As well as being impressed by his commitment, what coaches and players have been struck by is the leadership that Dias has shown despite taking a step up to join a new squad in a new league.
Guardiola sees similar qualities in Eric Garcia, the centre-back who will leave for Barcelona at the end of the season on a free transfer but is still involved in first-team matters at the Etihad while he is under contract. And the City manager wants Aymeric Laporte, John Stones and Nathan Ake to develop similar traits in order to make the team as strong as it possibly can be.
“He’s not just a player who plays good, he’s a player who makes the other guys play good too. It’s 90 minutes talking, 90 minutes communicating, 90 minutes leading, 90 minutes saying what they have to do in every single action.
“When that happens, it’s difficult for me because he is undroppable. It’s quite similar like Eric, Eric has this mentality to play 90 minutes talk, lead the other ones.
“Hopefully the other central defenders – John, Aymer, Nathan – can learn and not just play for themselves and what they have to do, see what happens close to them. That’s why it’s a football game as a team, not just individuals.”