Pep Guardiola has hailed John Stones’ start to life at Manchester City and likened the England defender to his opposite number on Saturday, Everton boss Ronald Koeman.
The City manager played with Koeman at Barcelona and thinks Stones, who will be facing his former club for the first time in the Etihad Stadium clash, has a similar skillset.
Guardiola stressed he is not at the level that the Dutchman once played at yet, but praised his quality and style of play.
“He was one of the few guys that I never saw fail in important games, he never went missing,” the former Barca head coach said about Koeman.
“He always played well. I never saw him play a bad, bad game in the Champions League or against Real Madrid.
“His quality was that he was not just big and strong like a centre-back who can defend, he could also hit these amazing long balls, 40 metres – quick balls. By far one of the best central defenders I’ve ever met.
“They [Stones and Koeman] are quite similar in the sense that they both like to play the ball.
“Normally, a central defender is a big guy who plays with the head and marks man to man and is strong in the air. We need that, of course.
“But now it’s the added plus of the quality of his play. John has similarities to Ronald, especially in terms of mentality.
“John is a guy who wants to play under pressure. Normally, the players who like to play the ball, handle the pressure better than the other ones.
“I cannot compare the student [to the master] now. Not yet. Maybe in the future. The long balls are always ‘wow’. Ronald was the best ever at that, but John is young enough that he can improve.”
Guardiola is thrilled to see Stones becoming a regular for England after he was only a back-up option under Roy Hodgson at Euro 2016.
He continued: “I am so glad that he played for the national team, and did well. In the last European cup, he didn’t play one minute.
“Now he’s playing all the games, and he’s becoming an important player for the national team. I am so happy about that. I’m not surprised he has fitted in quickly because he’s good.
“There are no secrets, in football the good players adapt quickly – John is good and adapts quick.”