Former Manchester City star Dietmar Hamann has admitted that the club have 'a huge hole' to fill following Vincent Kompany's departure - and suggested that Matthijs de Ligt should replace the Belgian.
Kompany captained Pep Guardiola's side to an unprecedented treble before announcing that he would be departing the Premier League champions after 11 years in Manchester to rejoin former club Anderlecht as player-manager.
City now face the challenge of replacing their iconic captain and most consistent defender of the last decade. Hamann told the Racing Post: "It's incredible to think that City spent more than £150m on Nicolas Otamendi, John Stones and Aymeric Laporte and not one of them has been the player Vincent Kompany is - and he cost around £8m.
"City have got a huge hole to fill after Kompany's exit and to my mind there's only one candidate - Matthijs de Ligt."
The Ajax captained his side during an incredible run to the Champions League semi-finals this season and has been heavily linked with a move to Barcelona this summer, following in the footsteps of Frenkie de Jong from Amsterdam to Catalunya.
However, Hamann saif of the Dutchman: "There are those who say he is too young but I don't buy into that. Sometimes you just come across a freak and that's what De Ligt is - a 19-year-old who is built like a 25-year-old and plays like a 30-year-old.
"He has led Ajax into some of football's cauldrons this season and is an absolute born leader. He is the man who can carry Kompany's baton forward.
"As I say, Vinny is irreplaceable. I had the pleasure of playing a season with him at Manchester City, his first year in 2008/09 which was also my last. He arrived from Germany having been at Hamburg and I warned him straight away and not just because he spoke good German.
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"He always had it in his mind that he wanted to be a holding midfielder but I was on at him straight away that because of his attributes - comfortable on the ball, good in the air, built like a beast - that he could become an absolute world-class centre back.
"And I wasn't just saying that because I didn't fancy any more competition for my position!
"Anyway, I was right because he has turned into one of the great centre backs and he won't just be missed for his abilities as a player but also because so many players look up to him. He inspires them.
"Vinny is truly one of the nicest people you could meet in the game. Had he not made it you'd have said it was because he was too nice for this cut-throat game of ours."