Ruben Dias W11 2023 2

Ruben Dias: "Football is my biggest passion – I'm doing the thing I love the most"

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Ruben Dias W11 2023 2
  • Ruben Dias was voted into the FIFA FIFPRO World 11 by fellow professional footballers from around the globe

  • Dias is one of six Manchester City players in the men's team of the year and shares a defence with club-mates Kyle Walker and John Stones

  • FIFPRO spoke to him about the achievement, his family, City stars and his friendship with Bernardo Silva

Any team that wants to be successful needs a firm backbone to support it. And one 'vertebra' of that vital backbone has to be a central defender. Manchester City, winners of the Premier League, FA Cup and UEFA Champions League in the 2022/23 season, found it in Ruben Dias.

The Portuguese defender was so important to Pep Guardiola's side on their way to the treble crown that footballers around the world voted Dias into the FIFA FIFPRO Men's World 11 for a second time.

"He commands a lot of the defence," one of his lieutenants, Kyle Walker, told FIFPRO. The pair, along with John Stones, are the three defenders chosen in a 2023 World 11 overrun by the Citizens: six of the 11 most voted players play for City.

"It's a privilege and honour to be selected in the World 11. It means a lot," said Dias. "You can do a lot in a season, but I think this adds a bit extra, to feel this recognition and respect from your own colleagues that either play with you or against you. It really is special."

At such a joyful moment, Dias did not want to forget those who were a fundamental support for him on the road to success that began at a very young age in his native Amadora: his family.

"Their support has been essential. Who I am is a bit a mix of who I always was, who I always was meant to be and a big part of where my family also directed me to be," he said.

"Whenever there was a problem, to have the right voice by your side, it helps you define who you're going to become. I'm very happy with the kind of person I am and the kind of instincts I have. But I am also very happy with the family I've got because when my instincts or attitudes were not the best, they were there to show me another version of it and I learned from that."

Dias has forged a brilliant career in a profession that fills him completely. "Football is my biggest passion. The biggest privilege we've got is to be able to wake up and think, ‘I have to go to work’. But then think right after that, ‘oh, I'm going to do the thing I love the most’."

Dias on De Bruyne, Haaland and Bernardo

The titles won in the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League elevated Manchester City's players even higher in the world's esteem. While they were of course already highly valued, the treble took them to a new level.

Dias paid tribute to his City team-mates, such as Kevin De Bruyne, who was named in the World 11 for the fourth successive time and recently returned in style from injury.

"You saw it against Newcastle United last weekend, right? The way he got in on that game, you can easily see how special he is for us, for football and for football fans. He’s a special talent.

"He breathes football and thinks differently. It’s an honour to be part of the same team as him. Obviously, I'm very happy that we have this group of special and talented players because in the end, that's what allows you, with the right manager behind us, to win."

Another City star who has multiple appearances in the World 11 is Erling Haaland; the 23-year-old super-scorer was voted into the team of the year for a third time.

"He's got this special talent of scoring goals and being in the right place at the right time," said Dias of the Norwegian striker. "I think sometimes that might look as him scoring easy goals, but those are not easy goals. It's a lot of reading and a lot of practicing to know when and where to be in the right places."

Working with Haaland every week means Dias is well-placed to see what he is like as a player and person. "He's a very determined person, someone that is very focused on where he's going and what he wants for himself. But in general, he's just an easy-going guy, and it is very easy to work with him in a team.

"He's someone that is very ambitious, and when you turn up like this at a club like ours, then you're in the right place because the ambition in the last stages of every competition and of every season is the one thing that makes you move forward."

The Portugal connection

Of all his team-mates, Dias has a particularly close friendship with his compatriot Bernardo Silva.

Football-wise, he holds Bernardo in very high regard: "Bernardo might be one of those players that sometimes goes under the radar when he's already been doing amazingly for many years. He's a fantastic player."

That's why it gives Dias great satisfaction to see his City and Portugal team-mate also in the World 11. "I have no doubt that the world of football recognises him as a football player a lot. Even though he's not been here before, he could have easily been. Obviously, I'm happy it's his first time [in the World 11]."

Off the field, the chemistry between the two quickly emerged. "When I arrived at Man City, we immediately got along – and even more so now. We’ve created a very strong friendship, one of the best I have in football."