Ruben Dias has been a revelation at Manchester City since joining from Benfica in the summer and is a big part of why the Citizens look destined to regain the Premier League title.
Still remarkably only 23 years old, Dias has been rock solid across 22 league appearances, partnering both Aymeric Laporte and John Stones throughout different parts of the season.
On their way to finishing 18 points short of Liverpool in last season’s title race, defence was City’s achilles heel with Laporte out injured for large parts of the season, and it was only after a string of clean sheets post-lockdown that they nearly caught up to the Reds’ defensive record.
This season there have been no such issues. City have been far and away the best team defensively, with 15 goals conceded comparing to Chelsea’s 25 as the second best. By comparison, Liverpool have plummeted from the title race and have conceded 34 goals.
Dias ranks sixth among centre-backs that have played 1000 minutes in the Premier League for tackle success percentage, winning 71%, while sitting inside the top 15 for aerial and ground duel success rate, per Football Critic.
His ball-playing ability in City’s possession-dominant system has also been impressive, as only Thiago Silva averages more passes per 90 minutes and his 93% passing accuracy is bested only by teammate Stones.
Dias is paying back every one of the £65 million that City parted with to bring him to the Etihad, a deal that also involved Nicolas Otamendi going to Benfica in the other direction.
Ruben Dias stats in 2020/21
|Tackle success rate||71%|
|Aerial duel success rate||68%|
What is scary for the rest of the league is the fact that this is only the beginning given Dias’ enormous potential. Even Laporte and Stones are each only 26.
In January, Man City boss Pep Guardiola hailed Dias for living “24 hours for his profession” and spoke glowingly of his quality and work ethic.
Earlier this month, he also compared Dias’ impact to that of Virgil van Dijk when he first signed for Liverpool and called on his other central defenders to take from Dias’ example of making those around him better players.
City have opened up a 10-point lead atop the Premier League table on the back of a 13-game winning run, conceding just three goals during that time.
The Portuguese star is set for a very long, successful career in Manchester, starting off with what looks like an inevitable Premier League title, at the very least, at the end of the season.