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Ireland? just priceless says skipper

Stephen Ireland 0809

Stephen Ireland 0809

Richard Dunne has labelled rising star Stephen Ireland "priceless" for the magnificent season that made the gifted Blues midfielder a strong contender for PFA Young Player of the Year.

City have been tagged the richest club in the world by the media following the takeover last year by the Abu Dhabi United Group, and manager Mark Hughes is expected to recruit again from the top bracket this summer.

But Dunne says of talented team-mate Ireland: "He's probably priceless. We've got the money and could probably afford to buy any player in the world, but you can't put a price on Stephen for what he's done this season."

"Superman" Stevie, 22, was pipped to the PFA award by Aston Villa's Ashley Young on Sunday night, but as far as the Blues skipper is concerned Ireland will deservedly walk away with the club's player of the year accolade.

Fellow Irishman Dunne said: "He's been outstanding all season and I don't think anybody can touch him really in the whole League. For his age, he's probably the best midfielder in the country at the moment.

"I just wish he played for Ireland, but he's playing so well for the club and enjoying himself, just leave him. He's always had the talent. I don't think he was on his way in the summer, but he wasn't playing in the first game of the season - since then he's been man of the match in every game he's played!

"That shows his determination and how much he wants to be part of this club moving forward. And he's a great example to the kids. People say the young lads won't get a look in because of the money, but he shows you can be a star here if you work hard and have the ability."

Ireland hit a superb 13th goal of the season in the 2-1 win at Everton, City's first away from home in the League for eight months, while Shay Given, the third member of City's Irish triumvirate, also played his part.

Given's crucial reaction save from Marouane Fellaini at 1-0 was world class, and Dunne said: "That was brilliant, I thought it was in the net. Shay's been great with close-range chances, his reflexes are outstanding. The fans will be really pleased he's come."

Dunne revealed there were no rousing speeches before Saturday's must-win performance. Nothing was said because nothing needed to be, added City's captain. "The lads know what's at stake, they want to be back in Europe.
 
"It doesn't need any words of encouragement - we want that seventh place, and we want to make a bigger name for ourselves in Europe. That way we'll be even more attractive to the players potentially coming in."

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