John Stones avoids replicating Tiger King’s Joe Exotic after revival at Man City

John Stones spent the first lockdown glued to 'Tiger King' on Netflix.

Like most of the nation, the true-crime documentary set in American kept him gripped as he adapted to life without football due to Covid-19.

Things didn't end well for the main character Joe Exotic, as his professional and personal life spiralled out of control.

Stones might have been able to relate to the narrative, considering he suffered a dramatic fall from grace of his own on a public stage, leaving some people questioning if we had seen the best of him at the age of just 24.

Back in 2018 Stones was instrumental in helping England reach the World Cup semi-finals in Russia with a series of classy and composed performances at the heart of Gareth Southgate's defence.

The man nicknamed the 'Barnsley Beckenbauer' following his rise through the ranks of his hometown club, was now earning comparisons to Bobby Moore as well.

He had a £50m move to Manchester City under his belt, a lucrative contract and the footballing world at his talented feet.

But despite returning from Russia with love, there wasn't much affection from Pep Guardiola – and Stones quickly found himself on the outside looking in with a feeling of emptiness at the Etihad.

Stones fell down the pecking order due to a combination of injuries and loss of form and confidence, becoming an England outcast while lurid headlines in the tabloids about his private life compounded the meltdown.

He saw Guardiola spend the thick end of £100m on new defenders in the shape of Ruben Dias and Nathan Ake in the summer, to suggest he no longer had a future under the Spaniard.

But instead of seeking pastures new, Stones buckled down, worked even harder to regain the trust of Guardiola and is now reaping the rewards.

Unlike Mr Exotic, however, Stones has come back from the brink to re-establish himself as the most naturally gifted defender in England.

Stones, who scored a rare goal on Wednesday night to help City beat neighbours Manchester United to reach a fourth straight EFL Cup final, is back in Guardiola's good books again and nailed on to be named in Southgate's next England squad in March ahead of this summer's Euros.

His rehabilitation seems complete, but Stones is still only 26 with his best years still ahead of him and Guardiola said: "He came back and he made another outstanding performance.

"But the most important thing he has been able to do is something he has struggled within the last few years, playing four, five or six games in a row. This is so important, for him and especially for us.

"All credit to him. Football is a long career and you always have ups and downs. Unfortunately, he struggled longer than we expected and he expected, but his comeback is absolutely down to him. We can say whatever we want to help him, but hopefully, he can continue in this way."

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