Pep Guardiola insists John Stones deserves all the praise now coming his way after the defender scored twice in his latest outstanding display for Manchester City.
The 26-year-old defender grabbed City’s first and third goals – his first strikes for the club in the Premier League. They came as City thrashed Crystal Palace 4-0 at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday to go second.
Stones appeared to be facing an uncertain future last summer after falling out of favour under Guardiola.
It seemed he might have to settle for being fourth-choice centre-back – at best. That’s after Ruben Dias and Nathan Ake signed for weighty transfer fees. Aymeric Laporte was regarded by many as City’s best defender in the 2019/20 season.
Stones though was given an opportunity to play alongside new signing Dias early in the campaign. Stones grasped his chance with both hands and his position now looks rock-solid. In the 10 games he and Dias have started this season, City have won nine and conceded just one goal.
Guardiola said: “If there is one guy who deserves the best it is John. He has had his struggles but he’s a fantastic human being. His parents must be so proud.
“He’s had personal problems in the past, injuries. At the moment he’s feeling good. He’s starting to play.
“Confidence is everything. He won his confidence for himself. As managers, we can’t give confidence.
“He started to play alongside Ruben and they’ve played really well.”
Guardiola discusses title chances
City’s victory was their fifth in succession in the Premier League. It lifted them above champions Liverpool into second in the table. City are now just two points adrift of leaders Manchester United. Crucially, they also have a game in hand.
After a slow start to the season, City seem to be making their move.
Guardiola said: “Of course we fought a lot to be up there, like many clubs, and we will have to fight a lot to stay there.
“It is a weird season. Everyone can beat everyone. It is difficult every game but I am happy, especially for the players, for another good performance and for the three points.”
Guardiola celebrates his 50th birthday on Monday and added the result was a “nice present”.