Hughes: Lescott best centre half

MANCHESTER - John Terry and Rio Ferdinand may be England's first-choice central defenders but Manchester City manager Mark Hughes believes his new 22 million pounds signing Joleon Lescott is even better.

"I'm delighted to welcome Joleon to the club," Hughes told reporters on Wednesday after completing a protracted deal to buy Lescott from Premier League rivals Everton.

"It's been a long and difficult process but I feel Joleon is the best centre half in the Premier League and will be for many years to come.

"He's key to what we are trying to achieve. I've been really keen to bring him here because the key as a manager is being able to work with your targets and now it's just a case of integrating him into the team," added Hughes. England international Lescott said he made the switch because City had more chance of breaking into the league's top four.

"I had a good rapport with the Everton fans and got on well with them," said the 27-year-old. "They were great with me and I'd like to thank them.

"I gave my all for them when I was there but everyone outside the top four is aiming for the same thing and Manchester City are better equipped to get there than Everton."

SUCCESSFUL TIME

Lescott, who has agreed a five-year deal with City, is the club's sixth major signing since the end of last season, joining Gareth Barry, Roque Santa Cruz, Carlos Tevez, Emmanuel Adebayor and Kolo Toure at Eastlands.

The defender was accused of having a poor attitude by Everton manager David Moyes after he made it clear he wanted to leave Goodison Park for City.

Lescott was dropped from the squad after Everton's humiliating 6-1 opening-day home defeat by Arsenal earlier this month and made to train on his own."I was disappointed with the comments about my attitude because they were not accurate. I felt I conducted myself in the right way. If the players at Everton didn't think so I apologise," he said."It wasn't easy but it didn't take me long to make the decision to come here. At this moment in time I believe City are better equipped to achieve success than Everton. I see the future being brighter here than Everton."I also thought the criticism of my performance against Arsenal was a little bit unfair. I know it wasn't my finest performance for Everton. But I didn't think it was my worst either. It was a collective performance and Arsenal were better than us on the day."

Ironically, Lescott's first home game for City is likely to be against Arsenal on September 12, giving him an immediate chance to put things right.