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John Stones says coming back from “one of the hardest times in my career” has made him the person he is today as he looks to help Manchester City secure the Champions League, and treble, for the first time in the club’s history. 

The 29-year-old signed for City in 2016 from Everton but endured a difficult period due to injuries and loss of form. 

Manager Pep Guardiola previously stated his worry for Stones’ fitness back in 2020 but the England international has since become one of his most important players, having featured on 33 occasions across all competitions this season. 

Speaking ahead of City’s Champions League final against Inter Milan, Stones said: “It was probably one of the hardest times in my career (in 2020). I literally went back to firstly looking at myself, being super critical of myself and what I could do better on the football pitch, and then looking into every fine detail, down to food, what food, training, what training, what extras.

“That’s come down to doing stuff here and then going home and doing work, even late at night, or straight after the training and all these kinds of specific things, finding these small margins, put them all together to kind of break where I was at after coming back to playing. Yeah, a big learning curve for me and maybe who I am today.”

Pressed on if he ever came close to leaving City, he added: “No, I never thought about that. I think as soon as you accept that or have that mindset then you have killed yourself. So no, I always wanted to stay, I have stayed and I absolutely love it.”

Solid defensive displays and an ability to win duels and second balls have made City’s back four a strong unit. Key to that approach is Stones. His ability on the ball has enabled him to play a hybrid role: defending in the back four when City don’t have the ball, and joining Rodri as a double pivot in front of City’s back three when they are in possession.

Stones has also been deployed by Guardiola as a second midfielder in certain matches this season and he is relishing his new role at the club. 

“People have always said, to be fair, from a young age that they can see me playing in there (in midfield),” he added. 

“I think I did and still do love playing as a centre-half and I’ve absolutely loved this role as well. I think I have showed myself that I’m able to do it. 

“Maybe showing some attributes that I didn’t know that I had, but the manager has seen (something) in me and yeah ultimately I think I’m just trying to show what I can do in there, and show what the manager sees in me and be able to help the team ultimately win with my attributes.”

Quadruple will be mentioned if Manchester City secure treble – Kevin De Bruyne

City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne believes some people will be questioning why his side didn’t secure the quadruple this season if they go on and lift the Champions League. 

City are on course to securing a treble having won the Premier League and beaten rivals Manchester United in the FA Cup at Wembley. 

United are the only other English side to have won the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League in one season. They were also the club that lifted the Carabao Cup in February following a 2-0 victory against Newcastle United. 

De Bruyne, 31, recognises how “big the moment is,” but believes that remaining relaxed as a team against Inter will be key to City’s success. 

He said: “Yes (there will be a lot of nagging if City don’t win), but if we win it on Saturday then some people will say why didn’t we win against Southampton in the League (Carabao) Cup and then get the quadruple. That’s the way it goes. 

“We try to win every game possible. Sometimes you are not good enough and another team is better than you and you have to accept it. That’s happened in the past when other teams won against us. 

“We know how big the moment is, but I feel the more relaxed you are as a team, and the team is doing pretty well with that at the moment, you get a better chance.”

The Champions League final takes place this Saturday at Istanbul’s Ataturk Olympic Stadium.

(Photo: Getty Images)



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