Manchester City manager Mark Hughes believes Stephen Ireland is taking the right steps in his bid to emulate some of English football's great names.
Ireland has spoken of his wish, ahead of the derby against Manchester United on Sunday, to aspire to the level of Old Trafford evergreen stars Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes.
And with 13 goals and a string of impressive performances to his credit, Hughes said of Ireland: "He has the opportunity to be a player here for many years. If he can replicate the guys mentioned he will have had an outstanding career."
He added: "The level of Stephen's performance is what has struck everyone. He has consistently hit a point which has seen him make an impact in nearly every game he has played.
"He is trying to improve and become one of the best players in the Premier League. That is credit to him. We have to make sure he has the means and the tools to do so in the coming years."
It was a summer of change for Ireland, according to Hughes, who said: "Stephen had to make decisions about where he wanted his career to go.
"He came back with a real focus to his work and is reaping the benefits. We also like to think the environment we created at the training ground has helped him. He has a real empathy with the club and that is showing in his play."
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