Up and down the country you’d have a hard time finding anyone who would heavily criticise Everton’s John Stones.
A stylish defender, his former Barnsley manager David Flitcroft said in 2013 that Stones was an ‘exceptional player’ who was ‘physically dominant’ possessing lots of energy with a host of attacking capabilities. Most of all he claimed ‘Stonesy is the best learner’ he had worked with suggesting that new manager Roberto Martinez would love being able to train and mould this talent.
He was correct. Arguably the only manager in the top flight who would afford him opportunities and accept any subsequent mistakes which would occasionally be the by-product of his elegant runs into midfield.
Seemingly as adept at right back as he is in central defence, he has all the attributes to develop as an effective holding midfielder as well as the previous positions mentioned. He played rather successfully as a wing back in some of his early games for home town club Barnsley.
Bought for just £3million on transfer deadline day in January 2013, former boss Moyes used his new charge sparingly, making only U21 team appearances for the remainder of that season.
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Always protective and encouraging of his young players, Martinez showed this emphatically with his slamming £20 million bid made by Chelsea’s Jose Mourinho earlier this week. The usually jubilant and calm demeanour was clearly rattled in regards to the audacious bid.
He chastised Mourinho for both the price suggested and the manner in which the process was gone about: “I think one thing is clear, we pride ourselves in playing a certain way and educating our young players in a manner in which they will always attract attention from elsewhere – and that is a footballing compliment.
“The other side is that another football club is making such a statement in the press so openly. I don’t think that is the way we would do it at Everton.
“We wouldn’t speak about a player that is at another club and there is no issue from our point of view; John Stones is an Everton player, full stop. We are not a selling club in that respect. There is nothing to speak to John about. I always speak with the players, but there is nothing to comment about.”
It is clear to see why Mourinho wants him so urgently. He is probably the closest to John Terry that England have produced since the Chelsea man’s graduation to the first team in 1998. This puts starkly into focus the fact that Chelsea haven’t progressed anyone to stay in the first team in the years since.
Mourinho stated he only wanted ‘one more signing’ over the summer, one must assume this target is indeed John Stones. But they will need to break the bank. Due to put in a second bid of £26m, the club are reportedly willing to reach £34m in their pursuit of the four capped England international.
With Everton holding the cards, they will not like the public nature of the dealings and may wish to hold out for £40m which would comfortably beat the previous transfer record for a British defender of £30m paid for Rio Ferdinand by Manchester United to Leeds United in 2002.
I suggest Chelsea do whatever it takes. In desperate need of a replacement for Captain John Terry, he needs time to be shaped in the culture and mentality of the club whilst still able to benefit from the player himself.
With great anticipation, wonderful passing and positioning he racked up stats last season which bettered some of those of the current Chelsea centre halves.
With a desire to bring the ball out from defence in a style more akin to that of Rio Ferdinand, he also possesses pace which could make him a better-rounded defender than Terry. If his progression continues as expected, he could easily captain both Chelsea and England in the not so distant future.
Having learnt to be confident on the ball and to take risks under Martinez, he could only benefit massively from the defensive structure under Mourinho to improve that side of his game.
Everton have claimed they no longer need to sell their best talents, but their resolve will be tested immensely over the coming months with Mourinho desperately needing his man if he truly wants to create a dynasty at Stamford Bridge.