Jose Mourinho believes Manchester City centre-back Ruben Dias is currently the best in the world right now in his position.
Dias, 24, marked his maiden campaign in the English top flight by, not only helping Pep Guardiola reclaim the title off Liverpool, but also by sealing the Premier League Player of the Season accolade.
The Portuguese subsequently became the first player to be named Premier League Player of the Season in their debut campaign since Kevin Phillips over two decades ago, finishing 2020/21 with the second-most completed passes of any player (2,528), behind only teammate Rodri (2,542), with an exceptional 93.18% accuracy.
His presence in the heart of City’s backline culminated in John Stones rediscovering his form and helped the club reach the Champions League final as well. But, now attention turns the international scene, where he will be leading the defensive line for the reigning European champions, Portugal.
And compatriot Mourinho believes the Euro 2016 winners now boast the best centre-back in the world, ranking Dias ahead of the likes of Virgil van Dijk, Marquinhos and Sergio Ramos.
The Roma manager told talkSPORT: “I think Ruben Dias is the best centre-back in the world now, maybe.
“I would say that Ruben with this step to the Premier League is getting a different knowledge and experience of competitiveness.
“I think he’s a fantastic centre-back. Lots of fantastic players in attack, Cristiano is not a kid anymore.
“I believe it is his last Euros and after being European Champion, he will try everything to succeed for the last time.”
Jose Fonte: He’s made everyone else better
Dias was not the only Portuguese to enjoy a title-winning campaign, with Jose Fonte marshalling the backline as Lille stunned all in France and usurped PSG for the Ligue 1 crown, with the 37-year-old forming a rock-solid centre-back partnership with Sven Botman.
Fonte was called up for Portugal’s Euro 2020 campaign and has regularly played alongside Dias since the latter’s emergence on the international circuit, and he has highlighted exactly why the City defender is so influential, believing he elevates the performance levels of all around him.
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“He’s one of the guys who can keep his concentration levels at max all the time,” Fonte told Squawka’s Jake Entwistle earlier this year.
“He’s already one of the best [centre-backs], I must say. It’s not easy to go to Manchester City and just impose yourself like he did. He’s made everyone else better.
“Communication is vital,” continued Fonte. “Just by talking, [defences] prevent so many attacks – by putting people in the right position.
“Dias is young but he talks a lot,” Fonte added, which isn’t a common characteristic in young defenders. It’s not something a 24-year-old Van Dijk had nailed down yet upon arriving at Southampton in 2015, for example.
As Fonte reveals: “When Van Dijk arrived [at Southampton], he was already a monster and he was already a top, top player, but he wasn’t very talkative. And one thing that he started doing more was communicating a lot.
“Maybe he was just a little bit shy when he arrived. But the fact is, by the time I left, he was at the same level as me in giving orders to the team.
“You see him in games now, bossing people around. When you talk, it changes the energy. When you start screaming at people, they’re gonna wake up. And you can see the difference in Liverpool’s squad when Van Dijk doesn’t play.”