John Stones return will test latest Man City undroppable for Pep Guardiola – Simon Bajkowski

Having played an integral part in Manchester City winning the Treble, immense disappointment at not starting the Champions League final will have been offset first by the celebrations that followed and then by the efforts Bayern Munich made to sign him and the Blues made to keep him. With Ilkay Gundogan now at Barcelona, Riyad Mahrez in Saudi Arabia and Kevin De Bruyne sidelined with a long-term injury, Walker has never felt more important on or off the pitch for Pep Guardiola.

Another crest of a wave has come with the England team, where having previously been so out of favour he twice considered international retirement the 33-year-old is now popping up on the end of sensational runs to score goals and further underline his importance to Gareth Southgate. More casually, he is schooling Real Madrid&aposs latest Galactico Jude Bellingham in how to play two-touch.

As much as Walker feels he can keep going in the long-term, he can&apost possibly get through every game for City – especially when asked to cover the space on the right wing vacated by Mahrez and not really filled in as Phil Foden stays inside (yes Gareth, in the middle). And as the players in Guardiola&aposs squad know only too well, there is always someone just as good coming to make you fight for your place.

For Walker, that may soon be John Stones. In City&aposs bright start to the season, it is easy to forget that the best player from the Champions League final has not played a single minute since the Community Shield.

Stones excelled last season moving forward from either centre-back or right-back depending on the game, and his influence on his own team and opponents was so vast that him not making the Ballon d&aposOr shortlist feels like a bigger outrage than if Erling Haaland does not win the prize. Juanma Lillo indicated before the international break that the England man was almost ready to return, so he can expect more starts soon.