In his prime – until injuries cruelly deprived England of one of its finest defensive ball-players – Jonathan Woodgate was the epitome of the modern-day centre-back, blessed with such calm authority in possession that Real Madrid came knocking.

So it’s perhaps not too surprising that the 36 year old – now a scout for Liverpool in Spain and Portugal – highly rates Manchester City’s divisive talent John Stones. Indeed even that is an under-statement. Woodgate, speaking exclusively to 888sport, has little time for the criticism that blight’s the England star’s progress and only has a positive take on a player we should arguably treasure instead of castigating.

“In Spain he would be absolutely adored. He gets the rough end of the stick but fair play to him because he’ll keep on trying things. If he gives it away he goes again because he’s confident and has a pair of bollocks. He wants to play out and that’s why Pep Guardiola bought him. Sometimes he needs to learn when not to do it but we’re talking about a 22 year old here: we should be embracing him for how good he is on the ball. He needs to learn a few bits and pieces but that will come: there are not many defenders who come complete at his age.”

“He needs to be given a chance and he should play for England for the next twelve years. He’s that good of a player. I’ve seen some of the things he’s done at Everton and just think ‘oh my God’; I’m excited watching it. I even rewind it back because I love that type of centre half.”

“I hear he’s a really nice, sound lad too which is good.”

Read the full 888sport interview with Jonathan Woodgate, including his thoughts on this weekend’s Clasico.