In recent years, Premier League fans have become accustomed to the division’s top clubs enjoying carte blanche over its rising stars.
Even those daring to insinuate greater loyalty than Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard turn into tantruming, spineless prima-donnas the moment a Chelsea, Manchester City or Manchester United waves a triple-figure weekly salary beneath their nose. It’s especially the case with home-grown players who, through no genuine fault of their own, attract amongst the biggest transfer fees and wage packages in the Premier League due to the quota-driven demands of the modern transfer market.
Defying that stereotype, however, is Everton defender John Stones, who proved amid quite the recruitment drive from Premier League champions Chelsea that young English footballers don’t necessarily have to let inevitable ambition eat away at their professionalism.
Indeed, the Blues launched three separate bids for the England international, deemed the natural successor to struggling skipper John Terry, the last and most lucrative being worth a whopping £30million. And the Blues’ campaign to snap up Stones didn’t stop there; Terry, Gary Cahill and Jose Mourinho all breached Premier League rules by openly discussing the west London outfit’s pursuit of the 21 year-old, not so subtly attempting to publicly convince him into a Stamford Bridge switch – or at the very least, start making the situation as difficult for Everton as possible.
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Stones made his feelings known after Chelsea’s third bid, handing in a transfer request at Goodison Park. But the difference between the 6 foot 2 centre-half and other Premier League prospects who have found themselves taking the same course of action in recent years is that he successfully separated it from Everton’s efforts on the pitch.
Take West Bromwich Albion’s Saido Berahino, for example, who is now essentially on strike at the Hawthorns after his deadline day move to Tottenham Hotspur collapsed. He immediately took to Twitter to vent his frustrations, claiming he’d never play for the club under chairman Jeremy Peace again. Likewise, although Raheem Sterling continued to feature for Liverpool regularly after it was revealed that he’d refused to extend his contract past 2017, his performance levels dropped to almost incomparable levels; scoring only thrice in the Premier League after the close of the January window and just once in the six appearances following his infamous interview with BBC Sport.
Stones, on the other hand, played 120 minutes for Everton in the Capital One Cup the day after handing in his transfer request and helped them claim a clean sheet against Tottenham Hotspur the following Saturday, despite being informed he wouldn’t be allowed to leave the club with just three days of the summer window remaining. There was no strike, no threat of passive resistance, no public demand of his relinquishment; the Three Lions prodigy simply accepted the decision of his employers and continued performing his job to the impeccable standards he’s set over the last two seasons.
It’s an invaluable lesson for the many young Englishmen who the Premier League’s top clubs will attempt to cast in their nets over the next few years. Although every footballer is ambitious by nature and determined to reach the highest, most competitive level possible, you don’t have to prove it by burning bridges and turning on those who provided the platform to impress.
It also speaks volumes about Stones’ character, suggesting he possesses the temperament to separate on and off field issues in spite of the media frenzy that ensued during the final weeks of the transfer window. Unfortunately for Everton, that may have convinced even more top clubs that the 21-year-old has what it takes to become one of England’s and the Premier League’s biggest stars.