19 minutes on the clock. A corner from the left-hand side swings menacingly into the box. The box is full of almost all the 22 players, but one in particular is determined to get there first. Ruben Dias powers past his marker and heads the ball home. Benfica lead 1-0.
It is to be the match-winning moment in the defender’s final game for the club – a fitting end to his twelve years at Benfica, and a goal that encapsulates the fighting spirit that Dias brings to his team.
Whether it is defending his own goal or in the opponent’s box, the Portuguese defender is a combative presence on the pitch.
The aggressiveness and determination may look familiar to City fans – they grew accustomed to the sight during Vincent Kompany’s long tenure at the club, and have grown accustomed to the absence of it since his exit last summer.
The vast majority of City’s fans will have seen very few minutes of Dias in action. So, just what has prompted Pep Guardiola and the club’s hierarchy to place a immense amount of faith in the centre-back?
To find the answer, the obvious place to turn to was somebody who has seen every minute, every tackle, every goal, every mistake, throughout Dias’s time at Benfica.
We were provided with this invaluable insight via @BenficaPodcast, who kindly answered our questions which ranged from Dias’s suitability to Guardiola’s system, his strengths and weaknesses, and if the Portugal international can be the heir to Kompany’s throne.
What do you think of the reports linking Ruben Dias to City? There have been rumours in the past but the most recent news came as a surprise. Do you think it’s likely that Dias will soon be a City player?
At this point it looks like the deal will be happening, Ruben was emotional in the post match interview when asked about a moment he had after the game with Rui Costa, and told the reporter that everyone should have already figured out what is happening. The fact that Benfica crashed out of the UCL, forced Benfica’s hand to sell players, and Dias is the player with the most market at this point. Dias has a high release clause, but because the market will be closing soon and it would take long to find a replacement, Benfica is going to take advantage of Nicolas Otamendi’s availability and add him to the Dias transfer package.
The defender is only 23 and already he has made 135 appearances for Benfica and established himself in the Portugal national side. If you had to describe Dias as a player to fans who have never seen him play, what would you say?
Ruben is a born leader, strong personality, resilient and an extreme competitor, he is the type of player who will leave everything on the field for the club he represents.
Leading on from that, what would you say are his biggest strengths and weaknesses? There has been some criticism on social media that he can be rash – is that fair?
His strongest traits are his physicality, his ability to defend 1 v1, and his presence in defence. He’s also had some success in set pieces, notching 12 goals for Benfica during his tenure. During his short time at Benfica he has had some instances where he picked up some unnecessary cards because of reckless behaviour, which can be explained as not only lack of experience, but also his competitive nature where he felt he needed to make his presence felt to his opponents as a young player.
How suitable is Dias for Pep Guardiola’s system and would you back him to succeed in the Premier League with the physicality and intensity of English football?
This is perhaps a ‘head scratcher’ in terms of City’s pursuit of Dias. Pep likes ball playing defenders, and that is perhaps the biggest area needing improvement for Dias. In terms of physicality and intensity, he is ready for the EPL
After Vincent Kompany’s departure, City’s backline has sorely missed the presence of a leader and a warrior type defender – could Dias take that responsibility?
Dias will fit this role to a “T” and this is where I see the appeal for City. From a very early age he has been the leader and captain in Benfica’s different youth teams; Benfica circulated a video of him speaking to his teammates before a game, where his leadership qualities are very noticeable and beyond his years. Benfica’s fan base had hoped he could spend his career at the club because of his leadership and personality which match the club’s DNA.
Do you believe that Dias still has a lot of room to develop, and that he can establish himself as one of the best defenders in Europe?
Yes absolutely, I feel the level at the EPL will create a challenge for Dias, and that challenge will drive him to improve. Ruben is not the type of individual who will shy away from a challenge, on the contrary, his competitive nature will always ensure that he takes every challenge head on.
Finally, what is the relationship like between the player and Benfica’s fans, and how do you feel about his possible departure to sign for City?
The fan base saw Dias as a mainstay for the team, to become the one academy player that would remain at the club for the rest of his career, and not follow the steps of Cancelo, Bernardo Silva, or Ederson. The current president promised the fans that Benfica will win European silverware with players made at Seixal (Benfica’s Academy), unfortunately there’s probably a better chance for them to do that in other team’s colours.
CityXtra would like to once again thank @BenficaPodcast for taking the time to provide us with some fantastic information on Dias.
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