Harry Maguire is as good as John Stones when it comes to ball-playing centre-halves, says Gary Neville, with the Leicester defender expected to attract further interest from Manchester rivals United and City.
An England international has been drawing admiring glances from Old Trafford and the Etihad Stadium for some time.
Speculation is expected to be stepped up during the current transfer window, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Pep Guardiola both in need of defensive reinforcements.
The Red Devils have failed to bolster their options at centre-half since prioritising that area last summer, while Premier League champions City have seen Vincent Kompany leave the club after 11 years.
Maguire has been mooted as the answer for both clubs, despite Leicester having no intention of parting with a prized asset.
Neville expects their resolve to be tested over the coming weeks, with a 26-year-old with the potential for future improvement having already shown himself to be one of the best options around.
“If you think of the attributes of centre-backs, he has them in abundance,” the former Red Devils full-back told the Gary Neville Podcast.
“Leicester fans won't thank me for this, but they're going to be under real pressure to keep him this summer.
“We talk about John Stones being good on the ball, I actually think Maguire is the equal of him on the ball.
“A big statement, maybe, as Stones is seen as the composed, ball-playing centre-back, but I think Maguire is just as good on the ball.”
It has been suggested that any of Maguire’s suitors will have to part with around £80 million ($102m) in order to lure him away from the King Power Stadium.
If that asking price were to be met, then the former Sheffield United and Hull City star would become the most expensive defender of all time – eclipsing the £75m ($95m) that Liverpool paid Southampton for Virgil van Dijk in the winter transfer window of 2018.
Leicester have every right to demand such a fee, with Maguire having only committed to fresh terms with them in September of last year.