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Full Time

Man City boss Pep Guardiola singles out 'Superman' Nicolas Otamendi for praise

Pep Guardiola has hailed defender Nicolas Otamendi as Manchester City's 'Superman'.

Most of the plaudits during the Premier League leaders' record 18-game winning streak have been shared among their formidable attacking players.

But centre-back Otamendi has also been vitally important, both defensively and by contributing to other aspects of play.

The Argentinian, who is arguably City's most improved player this season, has proved a key component of the attacking build-up and has also weighed in with five goals in all competitions.

City manager Guardiola said: "We have a 'Superman' in the team, as Nico Otamendi helped us absolutely. Without Nico, it would not be possible, what we have done.

"Everyone speaks about players such as Raheem (Sterling), like David (Silva), like Kevin (De Bruyne), like Sergio (Aguero) - and they deserve it - but if I would like to point to a player who deserves full respect, for what they have done until now, it's Nico. Nico has been amazing.

"He is a guy who, even with pain in the ankle, in the knee, in the back, always fights. He's one the hugest competitors I've ever seen in my life. He was so important."

Guardiola's praise for Otamendi comes at a time when City are thought to be considering buying another centre-back in the January transfer window. Otamendi has missed just one Premier League match this season - through suspension - but John Stones and Vincent Kompany have both had injuries, leaving Eliaquim Mangala as the only cover.

But Guardiola said: "I don't know what will happen. Maybe if we are in the position with Vincent and what happened to John Stones (we could buy), but we cannot forget Mangala has helped us a lot.

"If I have to live for the rest of the season with these players, and with the young players, we are going to live with that."

Virgil van Dijk was thought to be a potential target before it was announced this week he would be joining Liverpool from Southampton in a deal reportedly worth £75million.

In a week when Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho has suggested City have paid extraordinary amounts for defenders, Guardiola insists there is nothing untoward in that fee.

He said: "Liverpool took an amazing player, Van Dijk is an exceptional central defender. That's a price we'll see (again) in the future. If he plays six or seven years at a high level it would be cheap.

"John Stones, when he came here, people said he was too expensive. Now he's too cheap. It always depends on the value of what happens on the pitch."

Guardiola is contracted until the end of next season but is expected to discuss a new deal in the summer. He has already shown some commitment to the area by purchasing a luxury apartment near Manchester city centre.

He said: "I bought an apartment because I have to live somewhere, and I'm happy to live in the city.

"It happened the same when I was a player at Roma, at Brescia, and in Munich. I prefer to live in the city and be with the people."

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