Gareth Barry has turned out to be a better buy for Manchester City than Mark Hughes expected.
Hughes spent £12million to lure the England midfielder north from Aston Villa right at the start of this summer's transfer window. Having admired Barry for so long, Hughes always felt the 28-year-old was a player worth having. But the chance to work at close quarters has left the Welshman admitting he had underestimated Barry's ability.
"We have gained an exceptional player and one who has exceeded my opinion of him," said Hughes. "You can admire people from afar but until you actually work with them you do not know how good they are. Now I know we bought a better player than I thought."
He added: "Villa have a strong squad but he was one of their main men.
"For us to have him at our disposal is a positive from our point of view and a negative from theirs, even if they wouldn't admit it."
After receiving so much criticism from Villa fans when he decided to quit the club, Barry is preparing himself for more abuse from supporters who only 12 months ago were hailing his decision to remain in the midlands with such a positive attitude following the collapse of a hoped-for move to Liverpool.
Hughes knows, after 12 years, Barry's mental state is bound to be affected. But from personal experience, he expects a better performance from the midfielder.
"There is always a different feeling when you go back to a club you have an affinity with and have spent a great deal of your career with," he said. "There is no getting away from it and Gareth will feel it.
"But what you usually find is there is an extra drive in your play because you want to prove you have made the right decision. He will want to put on a show to answer those people who questioned why he left."