“This is a transfer that has to work for Manchester City.”
“I look at Ruben Dias coming in and there’s a lot at stake. I think if he’s not a huge success, I don’t think Manchester City can win the league.
City paid Benfica £62million to sign Dias but he’s been worth every pennyGETTY
“I don’t see Pep Guardiola staying at City next season, certainly if they don’t win the league. If they win the league then he might sign a new contract.
“That is the big fear for me for Manchester City also, this Pep project. This is the guy replacing Vincent Kompany. But if this doesn’t work I think it’s possibly the end of the Pep project.”
Thankfully for Guardiola and City, Dias has been nothing short of the huge success Jamie Carragher said he needed to be.
City are top of the league, in the Carabao Cup final and are still in contention to win the FA Cup and Champions League. The ‘Pep project’ is set to go on with Guardiola later extending his stay at the Etihad Stadium until 2023.
Guardiola owes a huge amount to Dias for City’s success this seasonAFP – Getty
Carragher’s suspicions may have been wide of the mark but he started an important conversation regarding Guardiola’s bad record with signing centre-backs, referring to it as his ‘blind spot’.
Pep’s blind spot
Inherited: Carles Puyol, Rafael Marquez
Signed: Gerard Pique (£5m), Martin Caceres (£13m), Dmitriy Chygrynskiy (£22m)
Inherited: Jerome Boateng, Dante
Signed: Medhi Benatia (£21m)
Inherited: Vincent Kompany, Nicolas Otamendi
Signed: John Stones (£50m), Aymeric Laporte (£57m), Nathan Ake (£41m)
Failing to address one’s blind spots doesn’t make Guardiola a bad manager but it really came to a head last season, City conceding the second largest amount of goals (35) in a Premier League season since he took over.
This term they boast comfortably the meanest defence in the division, conceding 13 goals in 21 league matches and Dias has shown himself to be cut from a different cloth to the other centre-back signings by Guardiola.
In fact, he’s eclipsing great defenders from other teams too, boasting better stats than Liverpool colossus Virgil van Dijk in his first 19 Premier League matches.
You’re certainly doing something right if you have better stats than Van DijkGetty Images – Getty
Dias vs Van Dijk
Ruben Dias first 19 PL matches for Man City
Goals conceded: 8
Clean sheets: 13
Virgil van Dijk first 19 PL matches for Liverpool
Goals conceded: 12
Clean sheets: 10
None of this will be a surprise for Dias’ Portugal teammate Jose Fonte though, who labelled him a ‘top, top player’ and a ‘leader’ shortly before he signed for City.
Fonte told talkSPORT: “For me, it’s a great acquisition for Manchester City. They’re getting a top, top player, who wants to get better and better and that’s very important.
“He’s humble. He’s very, very skilful with the ball at his feet. He has a good pass between the lines. He reads the game well, he attacks the ball well in the air. He’s strong in the duels.
“They’re getting a very good player. I have no doubt he’s ready; he’s been playing at the highest level for the last two, three years. He starts every game for the national team, as well. He has a young body, but an older mind.
Fonte and Dias started in defence together as Portugal beat the Netherlands to win the Nations League in 2019Getty Images – Getty
“Like I said, he is a hard-working boy, he’s always in the gym wanting to get better. He takes care of what he eats, he’s very, very talkative.
“He likes to communicate, that’s one thing I like about him. He talks a lot. He gives instructions, he commands from the back and that’s very important for a defender. So he’s already a leader.”
And it’s this leadership that’s been the biggest key to Man City’s success this season. It’s also had a huge impact on Dias’ teammates, namely John Stones.
Stones has been a player reborn this season and has developed an excellent rapport with Dias, so much so that Aymeric Laporte can’t get a game at Man City. The pair boast seriously impressive stats when playing together.
Is Dias and Stones the next great Premier League centre-back pairing?Getty Images
Ruben Dias and John Stones partnership
*In all competitions
Minutes played: 1,163
Goals conceded: 2
Clean sheets: 13
Dias and Stones were arguably at their best during Man City’s Carabao Cup semi-final win against Manchester United last month, a tie where the Red Devils weren’t given an inch when attacking. It prompted comparisons with Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand for City’s new centre-back pairing.
Trevor Sinclair told talkSPORT: “I think Manchester City have got two ways of playing now.
“If you look at the possession against some teams, it’s not what it used to be. They’ve got a possession-based game where they’re dictating and getting in the final third, but also if they’re not having any joy with that they’ll sit back.
“Because they’re so confident with John Stones and Ruben Dias they’ll sit back and like we’ve seen in that 15 minutes at Chelsea, they’ll hit you on the break. They’ve got speed going forward and if you give them half a pitch to work in they’ll go and destroy you.”
Can they be as good as Vidic and Ferdinand? Dias, 23 and Stones, 26, have plenty of years ahead of them
On the Stones/Dias partnership, Sinclair added: “It’s been outstanding. It kind of reminds me of when Vidic and Rio were together – one of them would make a block and they’d high five each other.
“It just seems they’ve got that kind of relationship and chemistry where they respect each other.”
At this stage it’s impossible to say if Dias and Stones will be as good as the Man United legends but Sinclair’s point about Dias giving City more than one way to play is an interesting one.
They’re currently on a 13-match winning streak which has seen a nice mix of grinding out the results out as well as blowing opponents away.
They continued their winning run with a triumph over Burnley on Wednesday but it’ll be fascinating to see how City approach their clash against champions Liverpool on Sunday.
Anfield has been a bogey ground for the Citizens, they haven’t won there since 2003. But the signing of Dias shows this Man City side are ready to break new ground.