Vincent Kompany believes John Stones can come of age this season.
The ex-Manchester City captain is confident his former team-mate can prove a lot of doubters wrong with a solid run of games.
City and England defender Stones has been tipped for the top for several years but errors and a lack of consistency have hampered his progress.
The 25-year-old was left out by City manager Pep Guardiola for much of the run-in to last season’s Premier League title success, with Kompany preferred on a number of occasions.
But now with Kompany having left and Aymeric Laporte out injured for the next few months, Stones is set for a prolonged run alongside Nicolas Otamendi in the heart of City’s defence.
Kompany, who was back in Manchester for his testimonial on Wednesday, said: “I’ve always said John is one of the most talented defenders. He’s got such a bright future.
“He’s already achieved a lot, let’s not forget that. He’s not a young defender anymore that hasn’t got any experience. He’s a multiple Premier League-winning central defender that is growing.
“The one thing I wish for him is consistency – consistency of games and consistency of fitness – and then he will show the world how good he is.
“By the end of it, if City can win a Champions League or something, all of a sudden he’ll be mentioned in a completely different category.
“He just has to get himself on the pitch, be himself and he’ll be fine. I’ve not seen signs of weakness I need to be worried about.
“He’s just a top-class defender. If now he gets to play games things will sort themselves out, no doubt.”
Stones is expected to return from a hamstring problem to face Norwich this weekend. With Laporte sidelined, he and Otamendi are City’s only senior fit centre-backs.
Midfielder Fernandinho was used as makeshift option in the last game against Brighton.
City’s decision not to sign another defender to replace Kompany in the summer has been questioned but the Belgian believes manager Pep Guardiola is still well covered.
Kompany, 33, said: “Three world-class centre backs is awesome by any standard. In the past we had the luxury of four but I’ve not seen many teams have four top, top centre-backs.
“It wasn’t normal. It only happened because of circumstance. ‘OK, Vinny could break down, so we’ll bring in another one’.
“Most clubs aren’t advised to do it and have three. Most clubs run with three world-class centre backs and a young one. City have got unlucky with an injury, that’s it.”
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Mauricio Pochettino has played down talk of a potential rift between him and former Tottenham defender Kieran Trippier, who criticised his old club on international duty.
The England right-back departed Spurs this summer for Atletico Madrid after four seasons in a transfer worth £20 million and has enjoyed a strong start to life in Spain.
It saw Trippier recalled to Gareth Southgate’s national team and he played the whole 90 minutes in Saturday’s 4-0 win over Bulgaria.
Ahead of the Euro 2020 qualifier, the former Burnley full-back opened up about his Tottenham exit and told reporters: “I had a conversation with the manager, a meeting with the chairman to see what my future was and I didn’t get the impression that they wanted to keep me.”
Pochettino dismissed suggestions there was any bad blood between the pair in his press conference ahead of Saturday’s Premier League fixture at home to Crystal Palace.
He said: “I didn’t see it, but I heard about it. I can explain how I feel. We had a conversation where he explained he was going to move to Atletico Madrid – okay nothing more.
“Yesterday (Wednesday) when Harry Kane arrived back he said to me ‘did you get Kieran’s text?’ I said ‘no’ because I changed my number. Maybe because he doesn’t have the new number.
“Because he (Trippier) believe his words were twisted – I don’t know nothing more. Kieran translated this message to me through Harry Kane. He wanted to tell me. But I’ve got no problem with Kieran.
“In football, decisions happen and players move from one club to another. What happened, happened and we need to move on and he needs to think of Atletico Madrid and be happy there.
“There’s no point to talk about if something happened or didn’t happen. The reality is one reality, but who is right in all this process? There’s no point to talk. But I keep very good memories from him.”
During his conversation with reporters, Trippier added: “It’s not nice when you know the club want to sell you. I heard rumours about them selling me and it’s not nice but it happens and it’s football.”
Yet Pochettino’s version of events are slightly different and he pointed out he had faith in the Bury-born defender, hence why he started in the Champions League final against Liverpool.
Trippier candidly stated throughout the 2018-19 campaign that he struggled for form, but still played 38 times for Tottenham in all competitions.
Pochettino added: “After the summer he came to see me, he asked me for a meeting and said ‘gaffer, I think I have a good possibility and for different reasons I would like to accept the offer from Atletico Madrid’.
“He didn’t ask me nothing. Only communicated whether the club were going to accept the offer. Nothing more.
“It wasn’t a conversation – you want me? Or you don’t want me? It was so clear. He played the final, when I had plenty of different options, with Serge Aurier, Davinson Sanchez, Kyle Walker-Peters. But he played the final. My actions talk more than my mouth.”
Although Trippier is no longer part of Tottenham’s team, Pochettino and his coaching staff remain proud of his development.
Before he moved to the club in the summer of 2015, the ex-Manchester City trainee had only played one season in the Premier League, but since has become an England regular, starred at the 2018 World Cup and shone for Spurs.
“We signed him from Burnley when they were relegated, bought him for £4m. He was worried about whether he would play or not play – I said to him don’t worry we are going to provide the best platform for performance,” Pochettino said.
“Later one and a half years he was in the starting XI, he reached the national team, played the World Cup and now he’s with Atletico Madrid.
“We all feel proud to help him to achieve his dream and to reach a level that he wasn’t there at before he arrived at Tottenham.
“That talks very highly about Tottenham, talks very highly about him, and we are more than happy that he is enjoying the new experience in Spain. I hope he has a good life there.”
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Leicester midfielder James Maddison knows he is not entitled to England caps, according to his club manager Brendan Rodgers.
The 22-year-old was expected to make his senior debut against Kosovo this week after missing out during the Three Lions’ 4-0 victory against Bulgaria on Saturday. However, he was left on the bench at St Mary’s.
It was the second time Maddison had been called up by Gareth Southgate, having made the squad for the Nations League fixtures with Spain and Croatia last October. He did not play then either.
“I spoke to James and he really enjoyed his time away with England, even though he didn’t play. He’s a young player and he’s been doing great and playing well and he understands he is not entitled to anything,” said Rodgers.
“He is part of a young talented squad of players and not every player that goes there can play. He is determined to carry on working hard and playing well. He will hope with his talent that he will get some game time with England in the future if he keeps playing well for Leicester.
“I had him in the day after when he returned and it was a case of bringing him in and sitting him down and seeing how he was feeling.
“This is where the hard work begins because now he’s got to stay in the squad. He has to take his time and do the best he can for Leicester and then it is up to the England coaches.
“I’m sure in time he will show he has the attributes to play for England. He plays with a lovely arrogance but he’s not like that off the field.”
Meanwhile, Leicester resume Premier League action against Manchester United at Old Trafford on Saturday.
The game will see the Foxes come up against their former centre-half Harry Maguire, who left the King Power Stadium this summer to join Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side in an £80million deal.
Rodgers insists there will be no hard feelings and revealed he has kept in contact with the 26-year-old since his departure.
“I text him now and then and wish him the best when he plays with England,” said Rodgers.
“He’s a remarkable guy and a fantastic player. His behaviour typified him as a man. It was so difficult for him and right the way through, his behaviour was exemplary. He’s a good guy and you can see he’s made them better.”
With talk of Leicester perhaps being able to break into the top six in the Premier League this season, the trip to United could represent a marker. But Rodgers played down such talk saying: “It’s not a barometer for our ambition – our ambition is there.
“It’s a long season. I think we are really looking forward to a game against a top class team of a very high standard players at a great arena.
“We’re very keen to go there and put on a good performance that can get us a good result, so the players are looking forward to a very good game.”
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