Gary Neville on Manchester City's Joao Cancelo, who he worked with at Valencia: "You see players sometimes not realise their potential. He is realising his potential. I could not be happier for him as a person because I know how tough it was at Valencia at that time he and I were there."
Monday 15 November 2021 00:03, UK
Joao Cancelo has nailed down the Man City left-back spot and keeps impressing - and his former manager Gary Neville cannot speak highly enough of the "brilliant" defender.
The City full-back set up both first-half goals in Saturday's Manchester derby and while Neville would doubtless prefer he had not done so against his beloved United, the former Red has nothing but admiration for a player he knows well from their time together at Valencia.
Speaking on The Gary Neville Podcast, Neville explained how Cancelo impressed him with his attitude in training, coming through tough times before developing with Juventus.
"I absolutely loved him when he was out there," said Neville of his time with Cancelo at Mestalla.
"There was a vulnerability to him when he was out there because he was so young. He is so hard on himself, Joao Cancelo.
"In training, and I don't know if he is still the same now, he used to be his biggest critic. If he made a mistake he would throw his arms on the ground and start cursing himself.
"I used to say to him, 'Give yourself a break.' It is hard enough in football as it is. You will give the ball away, you will make mistakes, you will give goals away.'
"I had him as a very young player at Valencia but you could just see exceptional talent. I made calls back to England - and you can imagine which club at the time - saying that if you are ever going to take a young player that is a young player you would take.
"Him and Andre Gomes were, I felt, exceptional talents who could definitely come and grace the Premier League. Andre has had bad injuries which have stopped him.
"But I think the education that Joao Cancelo had in Italy will have been a good one for him. I think Italy toughens you up from a defensive perspective, being at Juventus as well.
"He has then come to England and when Manchester City paid £60m for him, the only doubt I had is whether City needed to pay £60m for a full-back again because they already had players in those positions. I had no doubts whatsoever about what this player was.
"He is an athletic machine, he is a brilliant runner, a beautiful runner with the ball and he is a tough kid as well. He is strong, he is brave in his defending, he affects the game in defence and in attack, and he is delivering what I thought he would.
"You see players sometimes not realise their potential. He is realising his potential. I could not be happier for him as a person because I know how tough it was at Valencia at that time he and I were there. That was a tough school for him to have to come through.
"He was a signing at the time through the Jorge Mendes stable and that was getting criticised a little bit at Valencia. He was signed for quite a bit of money as a teenager so there was pressure on him to deliver.
"But he is a wonderful player, an absolutely wonderful player.
"He was playing left-back and he plays it equally as well as right-back. He can play midfield, I played him sometimes wide-right at Valencia and you can play him wide-right or wide-left if you want to because he is that good going forward. A brilliant football player.
"He makes this City team better and that is a hard thing to do."