John Stones has hailed Pep Guardiola as the best manager in the world after completing a big-money switch to Manchester City, although his England team-mates at the Etihad Stadium also had an influence on the move.
The 22-year-old penned a six-year deal after City agreed a fee with Everton that could reportedly rise to £50million, making him the most expensive defender in Premier League history.
Stones had been linked to City and – perhaps more significantly, Guardiola – throughout the close season, with his ball-playing style from the heart of defence thought to be an ideal fit for the Catalan’s famed tactical approach.
“I can’t believe that I’m here, playing for such a big club and the best manager in the world. It all seems so surreal,” Stones said in an interview with City’s official website.
“It will probably take me a few weeks to settle in and get my head around it but I’m super excited.
Asked what aspects Guardiola can develop in his own game, Stones said: “Everything. I always know there is a lot of improvement for my game personally and I think it’s 110 per cent the right decision to come and play under him.
“I’m so thankful I’m getting this opportunity to come here and train with the best and improve day in, day out.
“He’s a winner and I think that’s what’s going to rub off on everyone. We need to win games and I’m sure that’s what will happen.”
— Manchester City (@ManCity) August 9, 2016
Stones travelled as part of the squad for England’s ill-fated Euro 2016 campaign, although he did not feature in any of the four matches played in France under Roy Hodgson.
Nevertheless, the former Barnsley player identified goalkeeper Joe Hart along with Raheem Sterling and Fabian Delph among City’s English contingent as players who sought to apply gentle persuasion over his club future.
“There were a lot of things – I spoke to a lot of the boys that were here, like Joe, and they wanted me to come,” he explained.
“They just said ‘we need you and we want you here – you’ll settle in quick with all the boys’.
“They didn’t really try and persuade me too much, I was kind of sold already. We get along so well and I’m sure once we’re in training over the next few days it will feel like home.”
A factor in Stones failing to feature in a playing capacity at Euro 2016 was a collapse in his club form at Everton, where his desire to play out from defence led to a number of costly errors.
Ultimately, this did not lessen his appeal in Guardiola’s eyes and the defender insists he is committed to his playing style.
“I’ll try and come and express myself and play how I’ve always been playing,” he added. “I hope that’s what they saw in me playing for Everton and England.”