Watch: Pep Guardiola hits back at Port Vale striker Pope after his criticism on John Stones

Port Vale forward Pope tweeted that he would “love to play John Stones every week” because he would “score 40 a season” while watching highlights of the defender struggled during England’s defeat to Holland in the UEFA Nations League back in the last summer.

The pair are set to go toe to toe with each other in the FA Cup clash between Port Vale and Manchester City at the Etihad stadium.

Pope’s tweet quoted: “Just watched the highlights of the England game! I know I’m a league 2 player, I know he plays for England, I know he’s on £150k a week, I know he’s a million times better player than me but I’d love to play against John Stones every week! I’d get 40 a season!”

However, Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola has hit back at the claims made by Port Vale striker.

Guardiola insisted Pope’s message was “not nice” but did add that John Stones still has something to prove if he wants to become one of the best defenders in the world. The 25-year-old center back’s Man City career has been derailed by a series of injuries.

“He has the conditions to do it but to be the best central defender you have to play one entire season, every three days being there,” Guardiola told a news conference on Friday. “It’s difficult to reach the potential that he has, he has to be at the level to play regularly.

“The last three seasons and a half he could not do it.”

John Stones has lifted two Premier League titles since moving to Manchester City from Everton back in 2016 but only in his first season, he was able to make more than 40 appearances in a single season.

“It’s difficult to know the reason why,” Guardiola said. “Sometimes when you have a tough injury, for example like Aymeric [Laporte] had this season or [Ilkay] Gundogan in the first season, sometimes it’s unlucky, or [Benjamin] Mendy the year he arrived, the first year he arrived.

“That can happen, you know, it’s unlucky. But in the case of John, I don’t know. I don’t know why he is not able — we are not able — to be a regular for a long, long period because he’s a young player.

“He’s still young. As a player he has his future in front of him, it depends on him. It’s in his hands and in his head to become one of the best.”

Manchester City plays Port Vale in the third round of FA Cup and City are in a pole position to qualify for the next round.