Turn the clocks back a year and most people would have bet their houses on Nicolas Otamendi not making the 2017/18 PFA Team of the Year.
The Argentine centre-back’s first two seasons in a Man City shirt were far from convincing.
But as this campaign draws to a close, he’s deserved added personal achievements to his League Cup and Premier League medals.
Most defenders are taught to stay on their feet unless absolutely necessary.
Otamendi does not care for the subtle approach.
He is quick to ground and rarely compromises on commitment.
His almost childlike fondness of slide tackles often brings City fans to the edge of their seats… and not always in a good way.
The ex-Valencia centre-back’s rashness and physicality means he is well acquainted with referees.
Last season, he picked up nine yellows cards in the Premier League.
He’s on eight bookings this campaign, with only Oriol Romeu, Abdoulaye Doucoure and Ashley Barnes having seen more yellows.
Far from the Paolo Maldini mould, who famously believed that if he had to make a tackle then he already made a mistake, Otamendi prefers intensity to composure.
At least when the opposition have the ball.
In possession, he’s as calm as you’d like.
The 30-year-old has set a new Premier League record this season.
His tally of 2,902 completed passes (at the time of writing) is the highest for any player in a single campaign since records began.
The record was previously held by Cesc Fabregas with 2,829 passes in 2015/16.
Many questioned how much Otamendi would play after John Stones arrived in Manchester.
But the pair formed Pep Guardiola’s perfect partnership for the first half of the season, when City where at their best.
Stones and Otamendi may have shown moments of defensive frailty, but their skill in playing out from the back and ensuring their manager’s philosophy was in effect from back to front, contributed to City’s hypnotic brilliance.
Since the turn of the year, Otamendi has combined with Vincent Kompany, and has ensured City didn’t repeat the significant drop in performance they ensured last season.
Few would regard Otamendi as the league’s best defender.
The likes of Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderwiereld, Cesar Azpilicueta and Virgil van Dijk are all more reliable and technically proficient in terms of tackling, marking, etc.
Otamendi earned his place in the PFA Team of the Year (alongside Vertonghen) for his overall game — these days centre-backs are required to be more than just defenders.
He’s chipped in with five goals in all competitions as well, which is always handy.
Hundreds of his passes this season have been simple ten-yard square balls to Stones or Kompany.
Fernandinho and Ilkay Gundogan will also have exchanged quick one-twos with him more times than you’d be bothered to count.
But the simple nature of his passing game should not be underestimated.
He allows City to retain possession while the playmakers plot their next move.
And he helps dictate the tempo, slowing the game down to regain control and quell any momentum the opposition might have gained from a couple of counterattacks.
Guardiola may yet upgrade at centre-back.
Aymeric Laporte could well be a preferred starter next season.
But Otamendi’s contribution to this potentially record-breaking title-win will not be forgotten.
Dr Jekyll with the ball, Mr Hyde without it…