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.”