Gary Neville names Ruben Dias as Man City’s ‘most important player’
Gary Neville has lauded Ruben Dias as Manchester City’s most important player after selecting the defender in his 2020/21 Premier League Team of the Season for Sky Sports.
The former Manchester United and England right-back believes Dias was the most instrumental piece of Pep Guardiola’s side this term, as he did not feel the Sky Blues could be title contenders before the Portuguese’s arrival.
Man City paid Benfica around £65million (BBC) to sign Dias in September to join a centre-back group consisting of John Stones, Aymeric Laporte, Nathan Ake, Philippe Sandler and Eric Garcia and would play more minutes at the Etihad than all bar goalkeeper Ederson.
Dias only missed out on featuring in four Premier League fixtures as Guardiola sought to rest the 24-year-old over the second half of the season, but had a key influence over improving the Citizens backline.
Neville believes that Dias’ impact in that change saw him become the most important player at the Etihad, and why he deserved a place in his Team of the Season.
“At the start of the season, I didn’t think there was any way that Man City’s back four could win the league, so for him to do what he’s done, he’s been the most important player this season,” Neville said.
Statistically, Man City’s defence did not improve, as Guardiola’s side still ranked 19th in the Premier League for tackles (13.1) and dropped to 20th (8.4) for interceptions (9.3) per game, having ranked 19th in both accounts last term, per WhoScored.
But what Dias was able to do was help Guardiola smooth out the defensive errors that cost the Sky Blues heavily last season, and seemed set to continue this term when Leicester City won 5-2 at the Etihad two days before the defender was signed by playing on their high and nervy backline.
It was in defending deep and hitting on the break that saw Man City beaten in the 2020 FA Cup semi-final by Arsenal and by Lyon in the Champions League quarter-finals, yet Dias offered Guardiola the right-sided enforcer he so desperately needed and the results were clear and the title was their reward.
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