Manchester City boss Sven Goran Eriksson admits he "didn't like" his captain Richard Dunne when he first saw him play.
Eriksson said: "He is a tough guy who is approaching the top of his game. If I compare him now with the player I first saw four or five years ago, he is for me a much, much better player. Back then I didn't like him as a player but now I like him very much."
Eriksson rates the Irishman so highly that he admits he has pondered what would have happened to Dunne's international career had he been born English.
"I would agree that Richard is in the very top bracket of central defenders playing in the Premier League," he said.
"He can do everything. Richard is a good header of the ball, he is strong, he is a rather good passer when on the ball and is quick, quicker than you think.
"He has a lot of experience now at the top level. It would be nice to see what would happen if he was English though perhaps you should not say that to an Irishman! I think he would be a challenge to all the other central defenders."