Pep Guardiola has backed Manchester City summer signing John Stones to follow in the footsteps of Ronald Koeman and become one of the best defenders in Europe, 90min reports.
The City boss spent a fair portion of his Friday press conference waxing lyrical about the playing days of the manager he will come up against on Saturday, before claiming that the player he snatched away from the Dutchman this summer could go on to emulate him.
Of Koeman, he said:
“I think he was one of the first central defenders with the quality not just to defend. Johann Cruyff bought Koeman to show us, to teach us why we need a central defender like Ronald. He was one of the few guys that I never saw fail in important games, he never went missing – 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 (makes swishing noise) quick balls. By far one of the best central defenders I’ve ever met.”
The former Barcelona man then went on to explain:
“They’re 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. I am so glad that he played for the national team, and did well. In the last European Cup [Euro 2016], 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’s no secrets, in football the good players adapt quickly and John is good and adapts quick.”