Nathan Ake is reaping the rewards for working hard when he wasn't playing for Manchester City last season, manager Pep Guardiola says.
Ake was on the fringes for the first two seasons at City, but has this year established himself as first choice at left-back. His form has forced Joao Cancelo to seek a loan move away to Bayern Munich, and no defender has made more appearances than Ake this season.
Guardiola has previously praised Ake for his model attitude whenever he was out of the team, and has expanded on that idea to claim that the Dutchman has now earned his 'karma' for his hard work over the last two years.
ALSO READ: Man City may get glimpse of future midfield if Kalvin Phillips starts for England vs Italy
"These types of players play good because when they were not playing, they were always the most generous, with the most commitment for the club," Guardiola told Sky Sports.
"When this happens, you do not have regrets because you are prepared. In that period when you were not playing, you were preparing, not finding excuses, not complaining about other situations apart from yourself. You were training to improve, to learn what the team needs, what the manager wants, what you can do better.
"I am not saying that when he was not playing quite as regularly, it was all fireworks at home. I am not saying that. Afterwards, when you are asked to play, you are ready. When this happens, the karma, or whatever you want to say, it works. That is why he deserved to play."
Guardiola is not just impressed with Ake's attitude, however, praising his defensive awareness to help the likes of Rodri and his fellow defenders.
Guardiola explained: "Teams like Brighton, for example, and Arsenal, they use a lot of build-up. The players who are at the back are the players who touch the ball the most.
"If you play long balls all the time to the head of the strikers, they would be the players who touched more of the ball. In our case, our central defenders and Rodri, it is important that they can do this and that is what he is doing.
"He is an exceptional defender. He is incredible in the set-pieces, his attention to what we need in the process, he is really good in the short spaces. So that is why he is playing. It is as simple as that."