Manchester City are fortunate to have a player with the quality and personality of John Stones.
That’s the view of Pep Guardiola, who has likened the 22-year-old to Barcelona’s Gerard Pique, a player now widely seen as one of the finest ball-playing centre-halves in world football.
Guardiola oversaw the rise of Pique during their time together in Catalonia. Having been a bit-part player at Manchester United, Pique emerged as a key component in Barcelona’s hugely successful period under the guidance of Guardiola between 2008 and 2012.
Together they won three La Liga titles and two Champions Leagues during a four-year spell that saw them secure an unprecedented 14 major trophies. Pique has continued to win silverware at the Camp Nou since Guardiola’s departure, including three more La Liga titles and another Champions League.
Guardiola believes Stones shares many of Pique’s characteristics – qualities he says are hard to find anywhere in the game.
"With John, you cannot forget, he's 22 years old,” Guardiola said. “In his career, he only played one game a week and now he plays three games a week, in places like the Nou Camp against Messi.
"For the international team, he didn't play one minute at the European Championships, now he plays 90 minutes, 90 minutes, 90 minutes.
"And of course he has to improve, but not now at the beginning.
"He's 22 years old, that's what it's so nice my job to help him develop, to not discriminate in how he wants to play, to help him be more aggressive, how he has to drive to the ball, how he has to pass quicker. He has to make a lot of mistake and I will do it in the nicest way possible, for sure.
"I didn't see the game, England against Spain. I couldn't see the game. I spoke with my staff. It's difficult for me to find at that age, one player with this personality. It's difficult to find it, this personality to play.
“Sometimes you have to help him understand when he can do some things and in some other moments he cannot.
"The basics, the principles, the qualities - he's great.
"Gerard Pique when he started here was quite similar. Gerard came here to Manchester and he started playing not so often, but through time he grew stronger. This does not happen in one day or one month, he needs time.”
Guardiola has been encouraged by what he has seen from Stones so far in his short City career.
Having joined from Everton in the summer for £47.5 million, he has settled well, impressing with his desire to step into midfield and help create City’s build up from deep.
"I like working him with a lot because he tries to improve,” Guardiola said. “He realises his mistakes; he knows he can be better. He's always available to help the team and the way he plays is special, strong in the air, defensively has good qualities.
"He has the qualities with his personality and likes to play with the ball. To play in big games, that is the most important thing. He is not afraid to play. That's why I think Manchester City is lucky to have this player."