Pep Guardiola says John Stones “must improve” but the boss has backed his big-money buy to kick on and be a success at Man City.
Title-chasers City travel to Premier League bottom side Hull on Boxing Day looking for a third successive victory.
They have emerged from a bad spell with back-to-back wins over Watford and Arsenal in which they conceded just one goal. Those crucial results came without £50million centre-back Stones, who was left on the bench for both games.
It remains to be seen whether the England international is recalled at the KCOM Stadium but Guardiola has no doubts about his long-term prospects despite some recent high-profile errors.
Guardiola said: “He’s young, he has to improve, but he’s open and he has a lot of personality. When you play in the big teams, the character is there.
“All the big clubs buy huge players. All of them have quality and the (big) difference is the personality, how they react in the bad moments. John is one of them, I don’t have doubts about that.”
Hinting at a return, Guardiola said the best way for Stones to get better was to “play, play and play”.
“That is the only way you can improve as a football player,” he added.
Asked why Stones had therefore been among the substitutes lately, Guardiola suggested it was a matter of squad rotation.
“He has played a lot,” Guardiola said. “It’s the first time in his career he has played every three days – it had never happened before with the Champions League and the League Cup. Every three days you have to be focused.
“If I didn’t have confidence in him he would not have played the games that he played.”