John Stones has praised the way England team-mate Harry Maguire has dealt with stinging criticism of his performances.
Manchester United captain Maguire was jeered by Three Lions fans ahead of the March friendly victories over Switzerland and Ivory Coast and has struggled for club form in recent months.
Maguire has spoken of his “shock” at the backlash but insisted it would not affect his relationship with England fans.
Stones and Maguire played together in the heart of Gareth Southgate’s defence as England reached the 2018 World Cup semi-finals and the Euro 2020 final last summer and are likely to both start Tuesday’s Nations League clash with Germany in Munich.
Despite Stones plying his trade across the divide for Premier League champions Manchester City, the pair are close.
“I think some of the criticism that I’ve seen personally and over this season has been harsh,” Stones told BBC Radio 5 Live.
“I don’t want to get into that but I think how he’s conducted himself on and off the pitch, he should be extremely proud of that and, all I can say is, I enjoy playing with Harry and I hope that we can do for many more years to come.
“I used to play against Harry as a kid and I knew his quality then. I think he was the age group older than me but I got the opportunity to play against him and it took quite a few years to be able to play with him here.
“I think we hit off straight away, he is an incredible person off the pitch, first and foremost, and an incredible partner and player to play with on the pitch.
“So I hope we can keep playing together and building this partnership, whoever it may be, in a back three or back four.”
Stones is now a veteran of 56 caps while Maguire has 43, with both often favoured by Southgate even if they are out of form or out of their club sides.
Former Everton player Stones believes he and fellow Yorkshireman Maguire complement each other well and outlined their typical pre-game approach.
“I’d like to think so,” he replied when asked if he thinks the duo make each other comfortable on the pitch.
“I’m sure Harry would say the same thing, the feeling is definitely mutual and we’ve always got things to improve on, that’s a given.
“We know that we can improve as individuals and me and Harry are always talking about, when we do play together, what opposition we’re up against, what kind of striker we’re up against and how we can build up better with the ball, how we can defend better, what decisions to make if people run in behind and I think that’s the beauty of it – how he speaks about the game and speaks about his ideas or thoughts.
“It’s not always easy and we do argue on the pitch sometimes but I think, with our relationship, that’s the right thing to do sometimes.
“If I can’t take a dig off him on a pitch and if he can’t do off me then I don’t think we should be playing together. That sums it up really.”