Talented young English footballers are at a premium nowadays. Any player who possesses ‘home grown status’ and has even an glimmer of promise is immediately eyed by the biggest sides, who will pay mega fees to have them – which has brought mixed results through the years.
And one of the latest to attract the attention of the ‘big boys’ is Everton’s John Stones. The 21-year-old’s talent is by no means a secret – he’s an England international – but, up until now, the queue hasn’t been too long for the centre-back’s services.
However, reports now suggest that both Manchester United and Chelsea are eyeing the one-time Barnsley youth player, which could prompt a summer transfer scramble.
We think he should pick Old Trafford over the shining lights of West London… and here are FIVE reasons why….
A quick look at Man United and Chelsea’ defensive options tells you all you need to know about Stones’ potential opportunities for first-team action if he were to join either side. While the Blues have John Terry and Gary Cahill to call upon, as well as the promising Kurt Zouma and Branslav Ivanovic, The Red Devils possess a mish-mash of centre-backs, including Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Jonny Evans.
Slotting into the Chelsea team would surely be a greater task, even if JT is now edging towards the end of his career, and there is a convincing argument to suggest Stones is already, if not better, on a par with Louis van Gaal’s current options.
United’s own record at bringing through youngsters of late has been a little patchy – Wilfried Zaha and Tom Cleverley have been shipped out – but Chelsea’s lack of faith in youth has been worrying to say the least. A prime example appears to be Kevin De Bruyne, who was signed as one of the most promising attacking midfielders in Europe. A brief spell in the Blues’ XI was not filled with goals, so he was quickly shipped out to Wolfsburg – although he was still in his early 20s. Since then the Belgian has developed into one of the continent’s most prolific assist makers – 20 in the Bundesliga last term – which has even led to reports that the Londoners are looking to re-sign him.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek looks set to make the step up, but it remains to be seen if his ‘graduation’ is a tide-shifting moment or an act of tokenism in light of criticism.
Jose Mourinho is a born winner, a pragmatist and a coach who will do whatever he can to get an edge. Often this means that youngsters are overlooked, after all the old adage of ‘you won’t win anything with kids’ makes sense, right? Louis van Gaal on the other hand is a little different. The Dutchman was a major factor in the emergence of young players such as Xavi at Barcelona and Thomas Muller at Bayern Munich, while his faith in Memphis Depay at the 2014 World Cup was rewarded with two goals.
Surely Stones would be more likely to be afforded patience and time under LVG?
We’re not saying that what’s going on at Chelsea isn’t interesting – they’re Premier League champions, after all – but United are on the cusp of something memorable. A small decline after he exit of Sir Alex Ferguson was to be expected, and the blip appears to have been levelled out by LVG, who is building an exciting new era at Old Trafford. Stones could well find himself as part of the club’s history should he join and contribute to another rise to the top, which may well be appealing.
Although it shouldn’t be the way, players at big clubs get more chances at international level with England – just look at Rickie Lambert in 2014. Both United and Chelsea get more media attention than Everton, which would boost Stones’ chances of being a Three Lions regular, but being at Old Trafford would, perhaps, catch Roy Hodgson’s gaze to a greater level.