When John Stones came to Everton as a teenager, he was a rare breed, especially for an English centre-half.
Previously, you had to look far and wide for a player with his attributes in England. Stones could play the ball out from the back and dribble forward like a number 10.
He was calm, composed and looked like he’d be at the heart of Everton and England’s defence for years to come.
Stones consequently moved to Manchester City in a deal worth £47.5m, but has since struggled to consistently nail down a place in their starting XI.
He still earned a place among Gareth Southgate’s squad for the 2018 World Cup – a tournament he scored twice at – but his club form began to deteriorate.
City might have sold him and a return to Everton nearly materialised. Yet, the ball-playing defender grabbed the bull by the horns and fought for his place.
Stones won the league title and has impressed again at Euro 2020. Though, if the Toffees now have zero chance of bringing him back to Merseyside, they could find a like-minded player in Ben White.
Cut from a similar cloth, Rafa Benitez has been touted with making a £55m switch for the Brighton defender.
Just 23 years of age, he has only one year of Premier League experience under his belt but looks wise beyond his ears.
White’s dribbling is also an eye-catching characteristic. Throughout 2020/21, the newly capped England defender completed 0.68 successful dribbles per 90 minutes. By comparison, Stones managed 0.42 per 90.
Speaking about the Everton target during 2019, Noel Whelan compared the two, saying: “He is going to be an England international and is heading for a top club, a Champions League club. There’s no doubt he’s good enough.
“Right now, he’s on a par with John Stones, if not better than him. Ben White is much younger, has room for improvement and has a massive career ahead of him.”
Whelan isn’t wrong about his assessments. Arsenal are also in the race to sign the centre-back and even if he favours a move to north London, he mustn’t forget what Everton did for Stones before he joined Manchester City.
This would be a massive outlay for someone with little experience at the top level but he’d surely improve Benitez’s defence.