Ruben Dias has been in Titanic form for Manchester City across the 2020/21 campaign.
When Pep Guardiola procured the Portuguese centre-half from Benfica last summer, there were quiet murmurs that they might have found the solution to their defensive woes.
However, even the most optimistic of City fans surely couldn’t have anticipated that Dias would finish his debut season as the leading contender to be named PFA Player of the Year.
Legendary Premier League centre-backs
It’s well known that defenders are often on a hiding to nothing when it comes to individual awards with voters generally wooed by the goals and assists of players leading the lines.
But every now and again, there comes a centre-back whose performances are so overtly superb that even those with the heaviest bias towards strikers can’t avoid tipping their hats to them.
Dias is one such example and duly takes his place in a unique club of centre-halves who have produced Premier League seasons so spectacular that they’re competing for individual plaques.
Jadon Sancho to Man Utd CLOSE (Football Terrace)
Comparing Dias to greats
Naturally, another case study is none other than Virgil van Dijk who was so spectacular during the 2018/19 season that he came within a nose hair of beating Lionel Messi to the Ballon d’Or.
Here at GIVEMESPORT, we’ve already assessed how Van Dijk’s 2018/19 campaign compares with Dias’ 2020/21 season, but what about some of the other season-defining centre-backs before him?
And given that Dias sports the colours of a Manchester club, we thought that it was only natural that we brought a Manchester United legend into the fold and who better than Nemanja Vidic?
The brilliance of Nemanja Vidic
Besides, Vidic holds the unique distinction of being the only defender to ever win the Premier League Player of the Year award twice – and his 2008/09 season was particularly impressive.
The Serbian was at the heart of a United defence that amassed a record-breaking 14 consecutive clean sheets, winning a third league title on the bounce with just 24 goals conceded.
But how does it compare to Dias’ defensive effort more than a decade later? While the true answer to that will always be a subjective one, stats bring us as close as possible to a definitive solution.
2020/21 Dias vs 2008/09 Vidic
As such, we decided to key Dias’ 2020/21 stats into the Premier League’s official player comparison engine to see how it stacked up against Vidic’s data from 2008/09.
And let’s just say that one Premier League juggernaut came out of the statistical battle looking better than the other, so be sure to check out the results down below:
Vidic has the upper hand
Well then. It’s fair to say there’s no competition when it comes to the defensive stats, which, at the expense of stating the obvious, carries the most importance when discussing centre-halves.
Vidic boasts more clean sheets and conceded fewer goals despite playing in more games, while he also amassed more blocks, interceptions, tackles, clearances and aerial battles won.
In fact, the only area in which Dias has any advantage at all is the fact that Vidic made an error leading to a goal, though we like to think that’s evened out by his own goal for the Citizens.
Dias wins in terms of team play
But make no mistake, the debate isn’t a complete whitewash because as you can see in the team play statistics down below, it appears that Dias is more competent with the ball at his feet.
No slight on Dias
However, the moral of the story is that Dias’ 2020/21 campaign isn’t quite in the same ballpark as a prime Van Dijk or Vidic, but let’s make one thing very clear: that’s hardly a criticism.
At the end of the day, we’re splitting hairs between some of the greatest defensive seasons that the Premier League has ever seen and Dias has been nothing short of world-class since moving to City.
And given that the ex-Benfica man has only played in English football for a single season, it’s not from without the realms of possibility that he could still top Van Dijk and Vidic in the years to come.