Southgate hails composed Stones
Manchester City defender John Stones has the same composure as Europe's best defenders, according to England boss Gareth Southgate.
The 23-year-old was the subject of criticism last season as he struggled in his debut season at the Etihad Stadium following an initial £47.5million move from Premier League rivals Everton in summer 2016.
However, Stones has been in excellent form alongside Nicolas Otamendi so far this term as Pep Guardiola's men sit eight points clear at the top of the Premier League after 11 games and have already booked their place in the last-16 of the Champions League after four wins from as many group matches.
His defensive capabilities will be greatly tested on international duty over the next five days as England face Germany at Wembley on Friday, before Brazil visit London on Tuesday.
However, Southgate has no doubts about Stones' quality and feels he sits alongside the likes of Bayern Munich's Germany international Jerome Boateng and Barcelona's Spain international Gerard Pique as one of Europe's best ball-playing central defenders.
"I’ve always said to him people will talk to you about just kicking the ball out,” Southgate said.
"For me, if you want to do that, that's fine. You'll be the same as many others. But if you want to play for me with the under-21s, I want you to keep doing the things that make you different. And I think he is different.
"He has as much composure as any defender I've seen in Europe.
"I saw Boateng at Manchester City when he was a kid and nobody would have predicted him going on to do what he has done.
"I saw Pique at Middlesbrough when he was playing at Manchester United and he was at fault for a couple of the goals. You never would have seen him being where he was a couple of years later.
"And John has attributes that those guys have. He has presence in the opposition penalty box now. He has the mindset that he wants to learn and improve.
"He's got a really bright future and he's the type of defender we want playing for our country."
Craig Smithson is a journalist with over two decades of experience at the keyboard. A life-long Middlesbrough fan, Craig has an in-depth knowledge of all football and is also a keen fan of boxing amongst other sports.