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new vincent How Ruben Dias is already Manchester City's new Kompany man


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Revelation: Ruben Dias lives and breathes football ‘24 hours a day’ and has ‘given Manchester City something special’, according to Pep Guardiola. Photo: Getty Images

Revelation: Ruben Dias lives and breathes football ‘24 hours a day’ and has ‘given Manchester City something special’, according to Pep Guardiola. Photo: Getty Images

Getty Images

Revelation: Ruben Dias lives and breathes football ‘24 hours a day’ and has ‘given Manchester City something special’, according to Pep Guardiola. Photo: Getty Images

For a better sense of what Ruben Dias is all about, watch the celebrations that greeted Manchester City's first goal against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge this month.

While his team-mates are congratulating each other, Dias is busy funnelling instructions into the ears of Oleksandr Zinchenko, Raheem Sterling and goalscorer Ilkay Gundogan.

"He's in the middle of it all but he's actually telling people what to do," Jamie Carragher, the former Liverpool centre-back, reflects. "It looked like he'd been there five years."

And that's the biggest compliment you can pay Dias. He looks like part of the furniture at City, not a player who has been at the club less than four months.

The Premier League is littered with stories of foreign centre-halves who failed to make the grade or took time to adjust, and that is true even of some of the best defenders to have graced the competition. Think Nemanja Vidic, for example.

Pressure

Yet Dias has taken to English football like a duck to water, to the point where it is now easy to overlook just how much pressure was on the Portuguese's shoulders when he completed a club-record £65million move from Benfica two days after City had shipped five at home to Leicester in late September.

"I actually felt if the Dias signing didn't work, it could almost be the end of the whole Pep Guardiola reign in some ways because they have got to win the league this year, or do something big, really," Carragher says, without any attempt to be sensationalist.

This season has been a slow burner for City but, with six successive wins to their name, they have found their stride and victory against Brighton at the Etihad Stadium this evening would be another small step towards reclaiming the championship.

They are different beast to the side that scored for fun en route to back-to-back titles in 2018 and 2019, their appeal lying less in show-stopping tiki-taka these days than a developing blend of catenaccio, total football and rapid counter-attacking.

Perhaps Guardiola has established a system he feels can help City not only wrest back the title from Liverpool but also finally deliver success in the Champions League but they are unrecognisable from the team too easily cut open on the break last season. And a big part of that has been Dias and, in turn, his blossoming centre-half partnership with a resurgent John Stones. The statistics alone are revealing. City have kept 12 clean sheets in the 20 games Dias has played and conceded just nine goals.

City have won seven of the eight games in which Dias and Stones have started together, conceding only once in that time, and anyone who witnessed their warm embrace at the end of last week's Carabao Cup semi-final win at Old Trafford would be right to think the pair are revelling in each other's company.

"It's a pleasure to play with him," a beaming Stones said of Dias after beating neighbours United.

One thing that has struck Nedum Onuoha is the kick Dias and Stones are getting out of making a tackle or a block.

"You've seen them high-fiving each other when they block a shot or take someone away from goal and things like that," the former City defender said. "That's stuff previously you've tended to see from Italian teams - that level of passion for defending. [Giorgio] Chiellini, [Leonardo] Bonucci [at Juventus], those guys. Kissing each other because they've just blocked a shot in the face. It seems nuts but it sets the tone at the back and it's felt right through the team."

Leadership

At 26, Stones is three years Dias's senior but Carragher says, if you did not know better, you would think it was the other way around. The Portuguese has brought a level of leadership City lost with the departure of their long-standing captain, Vincent Kompany, 20 months ago.

"Credit to John Stones for what he's done but I also think you have to give a bit of credit to Dias for that as well," Carragher said. "The whole point of being a leader is making others feel and play better when they're alongside you. I know Dias is only young but if you watched them and didn't know how old they were, you'd think Dias was the senior member - just the way he plays and goes about things. He's got a big personality for one so young."

After Ederson and Kevin De Bruyne, Aymeric Laporte was probably the first name on the team-sheet last season and it would have been unthinkable, then, that the Frenchman would lose his place. But Laporte has had to make way for Stones and Dias and Carragher believes the latter's contribution is all the more impressive given that he is a right-footed centre-half playing on the left in a Guardiola team.

"Pep's always tended to like that left foot there - it's the Barcelona thing, the Dutch thing," Carragher said.

From looking horribly short at centre-half last term, City suddenly have a surfeit of quality options in the position.

Like Dias, Nathan Aké also arrived last summer. Onuoha makes the point that you did not used to see former United centre-half Rio Ferdinand chasing around because he organised his team-mates so well and he sees that same attribute in Dias, whom Guardiola says lives and breathes football "24 hours a day" and has "given us something special".

"Rio was almost the final boss - if you ended up getting to him as an opponent it was because you'd beaten everyone else," Onuoha said. "At centre-back, if you're not doing the job as well as you could do, you end up running more, making more last-ditch tackles because, essentially, you're on an island. I think with Dias he doesn't find himself on that island very often because he organises so well but when he does, he embraces the opportunity to duel with the attacker."

Carragher sees a team hard work to break down. "You look at City now and think, 'How are you going to score against them?'," he says. "I know Chelsea scored in stoppage time against them but they never looked like scoring during the game and even United didn't really. That hasn't been apparent with City in the last couple of years, where you've always thought you could get at them or counter-attack them, but they look really solid now and a big part of that has been Dias."

  • Manchester City v Brighton, Live, BT Sport 1, 6.0

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