With Ronaldo as a mentor and a bromance with Stones, natural born leader Dias has been an instant Man City hit

Ruben Dias Manchester City
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The Portugal international has helped transform Pep Guardiola's side following his club record move from Benfica four months ago

When Pep Guardiola wanted a new centre-back to sort out his defence, he could hardly have imagined that any player could make the sort of immediate impact produced by Ruben Dias.

The Portuguese defender arrived two days after a 5-2 defeat to Leicester City, with Manchester City struggling to shake off the defensive problems that had undermined the previous season when they were off the pace of Premier League champions Liverpool and conceded three times in a shock Champions League exit to Lyon.

Twenty-four matches after his £62 million ($79m) move from Benfica, City are top of the Premier League with the meanest defence in England and have kept 16 clean sheets in all competitions since. 

Apart from becoming a rock in the heart of the defence, the 23-year-old has added leadership and organisation that has been missing since captain Vincent Kompany left the club 18 months ago.

His former youth-team coaches at Benfica say that Dias's ability to inspire his team-mates has been apparent since a very young age.

“It was natural for him to be a leader from the Under-11s,” technical youth co-ordinator Rodrigo Magalhaes told Goal.

“We saw it and I made a report to get him to Benfica. Normally we can observe the tactical level, and the decision-making but Ruben was so charismatic. 

“He's a captain, he's a general. He talks to everyone and takes responsibility for the other players. No one questions his leadership.”

His high-fives and positive back-slaps have brought a love of defending back to a club where the spotlight is more focused on attacking and has helped, in part, to transform central defensive partner John Stones.

But his inspiration is not confined to fellow defenders.

Ahead of Tuesday night’s 5-0 demolition of West Brom, he gave an animated pep talk to Riyad Mahrez before kick-off and then cajoled the City side through a rocky opening few minutes at the Hawthorns.

Ruben Dias

“He communicates with the whole team like he has magic powers, he can send a light to wingers and strikers,” Magalhaes added. 

“He came to Benfica and played in the B team because his performances were not high. But Ruben maintains the same characteristics. He had a lot of passion for the game and desire - it was different from the others.”

Insiders at City say Dias has an intense determination to succeed; watching and learning from those that have done everything required to get to the top of the game. 

He listened carefully to his coaches in Benfica and is continuing to strive for his best at the Etihad Stadium under Guardiola.

Experienced Portugal defenders Pepe and Bruno Alves helped him when he made the step up to the national team while Dias also found an unlikely mentor in Cristiano Ronaldo.

The five-time Ballon d’Or winner may be a world away from his style on the pitch, but the City defender could still learn from the Juventus superstar, matching his hunger to be the best while looking after himself physically.

“He wants to learn and all of us were impressed how he takes care of his body and mind, every day. We were surprised a lot,” Guardiola said.

“The day after [a game] – 8:30 in the morning in the gym. He makes his routine, he eats perfectly. He lives 24 hours for his profession.”

Leaving his boyhood club to move to Manchester was a difficult decision.

Dias fought back tears when he said goodbye to his team-mates in the dressing room after his final appearance, but he had decided it was the step up he needed.

“At Benfica and with Portugal we play every game to win,” he said. “It’s a different league, not so competitive, but the mentality is the same. 

“Obviously now the challenge will be bigger, but that’s what I want and that’s what this club can give to me.”

Even with a fierce resolve to succeed, moving to England during the Covid-19 pandemic made it a difficult start on and off the pitch, particularly as he had still been living with his parents on the outskirts of Lisbon. 

Former Benfica goalkeeper Ederson, international team-mates Joao Cancelo and Bernardo Silva and City’s other Portuguese-speaking players have all helped him to settle into the city quickly. 

Ruben Dias John Stones

And he has struck up a blossoming bromance with the resurgent Stones at the heart of the defence.

Their record together is phenomenal. 

In the 12 matches that they have both started, City have remarkably conceded just one goal - Callum Hudson-Odoi’s 90th-minute consolation in a 3-1 victory over Chelsea.

It has given City the base for an 11-match winning streak to move a point clear at the top of the Premier League and helped Dias reach his first final with the club in the Carabao Cup.

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He and goalscorer Stones embraced with a huge hug after securing their place at Wembley with a hard-earned 2-0 victory at Manchester United.

No silverware has been secured yet though, but Guardiola has no doubts about the quality of his signing.

“I can assure you that we signed one incredible player for the next five, six, seven years,” he said. “That is not easy to find.”

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