London, November 10: Gareth Southgate compared John Stones to Jerome Boateng and Gerard Pique - and the England manager believes the in-form defender can get even better.
After a topsy-turvy first season at Manchester City, the 23-year-old Stones has become a key component of Pep Guardiola's all-conquering side, forming a solid partnership with Nicolas Otamendi at the heart of the defence.
Southgate is also likely to lean on Stones for England's World Cup campaign in Russia next year and, having previously worked together at under-21 level, the national team boss is delighted with the player's progression.
A defender in his playing days, Southgate offered Bayern Munich's Boateng and Barcelona's Pique - considered two of the best in the position in Europe - as prime examples of ball-playing centre-backs who blossomed despite shaky moments in their early years.
"I’ve always said to him people will talk to you about just kicking the ball out,” Southgate told reporters.
3 - John Stones has scored three Champions League goals this season; more than any other Man City player. Prolific. pic.twitter.com/5UvXCqNBpv— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) November 1, 2017
"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."