Cancelo arrived at City from Juventus in 2019 and after a slow start to life in England, he’s become one of the world’s best defenders.
Cancelo put in a man of the match performance as Man City outclassed Man Utd at the weekend with the Red Devils passing up the chance of signing the full-back.
The Portugal international was named Man of the Match in Saturday’s 2-0 derby win and Neville is no stranger to his talents, having managed Cancelo at Valencia.
Neville believes the Portuguese international has now reached his potential and is pleased to see him excelling, albeit with United’s noisy neighbours.
“I love him as a lad,” Neville explained on his Sky Sports podcast.
“I absolutely loved him when he was out there. There was a vulnerability about him when he was out there because he was so young.
“He’s so hard on himself, in training, I don’t know if he is still the same now. He used to be his critic. If he made a mistake, he’d throw his arms on the ground and start cursing himself and I used to say to him, ‘give yourself a break’.
“It’s hard enough in football as it is without being too tough on yourself, you will give the ball away, you will make mistakes, you will give goals away.
“I had him as a very young player at Valencia but you could just see exceptional talent.
“I made calls back to England, you could imagine to which club I’m talking about, [saying], ‘if you’d ever take a young player, he’s one you’d take’.”
Neville goes on to name Everton midfielder Andre Gomes as another ‘exceptional talent’ during his time in Spain.
“Him and Andre Gomes, I felt were exceptional talents that could come and grace the Premier League. Andre has had bad injuries which stopped him.
“But I think the education Joao Cancelo had in Italy would have been a good one for him. I think Italy toughens you up from a defensive perspective being at Juventus.
“When City paid £60 million [as part of a swap deal with Danilo] for him the only doubt I had was the fact did City need to spend £60m on a full-back again because they already had players in those positions.
“Not any doubt whatsoever about what this player was.
“He’s strong, he’s brave in his defending, he affects the game in defence and attack.
“He’s delivering on what I thought he would in terms of you see players sometimes not realising their potential, he is realising his potential. I couldn’t be happier for him as a person.”
These Neville’s comments were shared on Twitter by @City_Xtra, and it attracted plenty of attention from the supporters.
Tears man, United could’ve had Cancelo over AWB but they chose to go against us for Maguire, Sanchez and Fred😭😭😭 https://t.co/GEs7JuDszo
— Kesh (@KeshMCFC) November 8, 2021
Cancelo joined the right side of Manchester then
— Ordinary ‘#OleIn’ Molez (@molezanimations) November 8, 2021
Lucky Lucky decision for City AND Cancello What a magnificent player Simply a joy to see him perform
— Rory Duffy (@RoryDuffy9) November 8, 2021
— Real Talk Manchester City (@RealTalkMCFC) November 8, 2021
lucky it didn’t materialise, otherwise cancelo would’ve been ruined for good. thanks to the person who communicated with Gary at that point of time.
— Philotastics (@philotastics) November 8, 2021
No way he would’ve developed like this at United anyway. https://t.co/wlxpBavxYk
— Notamancantona (@NMCreborn) November 8, 2021
Cancelo has started every Premier League and Champions League game for Man City so far this season, and in his last two fixtures across all competitions – against Club Brugge and Man United – the full-back has provided five assists.