Belfast Telegraph

Sam Allardyce believes John Stones can be England's Pique

By Mark Ogden

Sam Allardyce is ready to build his England defence around John Stones after claiming he can develop into another Gerard Pique under Pep Guardiola at Manchester City.

Stones, who failed to make an appearance for England during the failed Euro 2016 campaign, has made an impressive start to life at City following his £47.5m transfer from Everton earlier this month.

And despite being regarded, at the age of 22, as a player with potential, Allardyce believes that Guardiola's influence at City will ensure that Stones' development is accelerated for the benefit of club and country.

"Potential?" Allardyce said. "There's that word, but we don't want potential, do we?

"I want the thing, and right now. Potential is something that's going to be great in the future.

"But I want it right now and I think he (Stones) has got a great chance of becoming 'right now' working with Manchester City, with all due respect to Everton.

"It's about the level he has to get to (with City), because you don't realise how much Pep Guardiola does focus on defending.

"It's not just about winning the ball back. Pique was a little similar at Man United until he went to Barcelona. Then he became a good defender as well as a great asset for Barcelona in possession.

"So he had both and that's why he has stayed there for so long."

While Allardyce regards Stones as a developing force at the back, he admits that Jose Mourinho's decision to restore Wayne Rooney to an attacking role at Manchester United - Rooney played as a midfielder for England in France - has resolved the dilemma over where to deploy the current England captain.

"I think his best position is where he's being played now because that's the manager of Manchester United telling him where he wants him to play with Zlatan Ibrahimovic," Allardyce said. "I think he's started well, the team has started well, Manchester United have started well so that breeds confidence into any United player who is selected to come with us.

"Wayne has been England captain, he's the most successful England player for the last decade, he's broken every record at league level, Champions League level and international level, so yes, we should talk very much about Wayne and about how good he is, what a fantastic player he is and what a really, really good captain he is."

Meanwhile, Allardyce has said Joe Hart will "definitely" be in his first squad when it is announced on Sunday - but he is yet to reveal who will captain the Three Lions.

Belfast Telegraph


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