Paul Merson believes opponents are already “scared” of Ruben Dias and has likened the Manchester City man to Liverpool kingpin Virgil van Dijk.
Dias arrived for around £62m from Benfica last summer in a move that was not met with much fanfare, despite the fee.
However, the 6ft 2in centre-back has been a tower of strength for City in their rise to the top of the table. Pep Guardiola’s side have conceded just 15 goals in 24 Premier League games and Dias’ partnership with John Stones has been integral to that success.
It’s not the first time 23-year-old Dias has been compared to Van Dijk. City boss Guardiola agreed the comparison was fair earlier this month.
“Yes absolutely,” said Guardiola when posed the question about the pair. “He’s not just a player who plays good, he’s a player who makes the other guys play good too.”
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp was reluctant to compare the two, but he did recently admit that Dias was a “good player”
Sky Sports pundit Merson thinks Dias has been “absolutely phenomenal”.
“Ruben Dias is starting to get a reputation like Virgil van Dijk – players are scared to take him on,” Merson told the Daily Star.
“I wasn’t sure about him at first, coming in from Portugal where the league is nowhere near as strong.
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“I wondered if he was going to be good enough because they didn’t have to fight off five or six teams to sign him, did they? But wow what a signing.
“He has been absolutely phenomenal and he is starting to remind me of Van Dijk now. Both players have the same fear factor about them.
“I see players looking up on a dribble and thinking: ‘Oh I can’t beat him…
“Even when City played Liverpool. Mo Salah did it. He only had to beat Dias one on one and he was away. But he didn’t fancy it.
“City’s Achilles heel was always that they couldn’t defend. But Dias has come in, John Stones has cut out the mistakes, and suddenly they don’t let goals in.”