Everton defender John Stones is reportedly in a tug-of-war between Chelsea and Manchester United, with both seeing the England international as a player to lead the respective clubs forward into the future.
The cultured central defender has made a real impact at Goodison Park and it looks like only a matter of time before Roberto Martinez’s men are forced to part company with their prized asset.
With United looking to put forward a title challenge this term and establish themselves in the Champions League again, landing Stones would be a statement of intent and give the club a potential future England captain in the making.
Here are five reasons why United must beat Chelsea to the Everton man’s capture.
Chelsea have a settled back four and one of the best defences in the Premier League – if not the best.
United on the other hand have chopped and changed with players, with the latest development being Daley Blind’s switch to the heart of the team’s rearguard.
As such, despite Stones’ potential to improve, United could use him in his current form as a centre-half to add quality to the team.
During the Sir Alex Ferguson days, Manchester United were the team that most young stars would dream of playing for, with Old Trafford the pinnacle of the English game.
Fast forward a couple of years, Manchester City and Chelsea – both backed by wealthy owners, now have the financial clout to buy up the best talent and force their way to silverware.
As such, getting Stones ahead of the Blues would show that United are still perceived as one of world football’s top teams.
All five summer signings at Old Trafford have been of foreign players, with the club’s once strong homegrown core starting to fade away.
As such, landing someone like Stones would surely see the Red Devils add a player that can thrive in the United defence for the next ten years.
He would also be a player to build a team around, with fellow English talent brought into the fray.
Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho is clearly looking for a long-term replacement for Chelsea talisman John Terry and sees Stones as the ideal option.
The West London side would surely love to replace their current skipper with another Englishman, to add that homegrown feel about a team loaded with foreigners.
With no other English standout candidates for the role, United signing Stones would be a dent in Chelsea’s plans.
Chelsea and their manager have started to become accustomed to having things their own way again, with the Stamford Bridge outfit cantering to a domestic double last season.
In the transfer market it is much of the same, with the London club able to splash out and land just about anyone they want.
However, United blocking the Blues’ move for Stones would show Mourinho and co that they still have real competition and that the rest of English football is not ready to simply accept Chelsea’s assumed superiority.