Everton’s talented 21-year-old central defender John Stones is a name that has caught the eye for much of the summer, Jose Mourinho has been proactive in trying to tempt the young England international to Stamford Bridge but where is the best place for the former Barnsley trainee this season?
There has already been two bids rejected by the Goodison Park club, the most recent was at the end of last month for a reported £26 million. It has been suggested that Chelsea are expected to test the Merseyside club’s resolve with a third bid of £30 million with Roberto Martinez fighting to keep hold of his talented defender.
Stones who has been capped four times for the England senior squad is entering a massive season in his development. This will be his third season at Everton since his £3 million move from Barnsley in 2013, he has a few options but when the elite clubs in the Premier League come knocking it can be very difficult not to let your thoughts wonder, which is something that has been thrown at team-mate Ross Barkley following speculation last season.
Former England and Manchester United captain Rio Ferdinand has had his say and believes that the England hopeful should swap the Blue for the Red of the Old Trafford club, “If he goes to Man United, he plays every week so that’s the right club for him”. Ferdinand continued by saying “If he goes to Chelsea, he’s not playing every week. He’s at that stage of his development where he wants to play every week. If you say to any young footballer to leave a club to sit on the bench, you’ve got to be a lunatic. You have to be.”
Ferdinand would be a good example of what is expected of a ball playing central defender having to live up to a big price tag, the former West Ham youth product left the Hammers for Leeds in 2000 for a staggering £18 million where he spent two years and was part of the impressive 2000-2001 squad that reached the Champions League semi finals. Following that Ferdinand made an even bigger move, swapping Leeds United for Manchester United for a whopping £29.1 million in the summer of 2002 which was a record fee paid by a British club for a defender.
At this stage of the Everton player’s career it is all about development and getting plenty of game time, if he was to swap Merseyside for London the worry would be as Ferdinand so eloquently put it “he’s not playing every week”. Stones is on to a very good thing with the Toffees and manager Roberto Martinez. He finds himself working under a coach that likes to play progressive football, has always encouraged the nurturing of new talent and has modeled himself on developing youth- a perfect example of this is his coaching days at Swansea City where he formulated the blueprint that Garry Monk still implements today.
There has been a lot of turmoil at Goodison Park with many fans dubious over the actions of owner Bill Kenwright, any sale of Stones would only add more weight to their claims that he is only interested in making money and does not have the club at heart.
Louis Van Gaal is in need of a central defender himself and you would think a player of the talent of Stones would fit the bill but with the Dutchman still trying to work out which personnel he trusts within his back four, would the Everton centre half have as much chance playing at Old Trafford as he would at Stamford Bridge? In the opening day fixture at home to Tottenham, Van Gaal fielded Daley Blind at centre half as he tried to fit in new signing Morgan Schneiderlin alongside holding midfielder Michael Carrick.
Stones has become a fan favourite in his short time at Goodison, he has featured heavily making 45 appearances in all competitions since his arrival, Martinez clearly sees Stones as future captain material and is a forward thinking defender who has been encouraged to play out from the back.
Since the departure of experienced defender Sylvain Distin, Stones is expected to feature predominately alongside Everton captain Phil Jagielka which will stand the inexperienced Stones in good stead.
Stones’ progression is there for all to see, if you compare his stats from his first season in 2013-14 to last season it highlights just how well he has improved in every important aspect of a defender’s game. Stones’ playing style is more passive than robust but has shown signs of being a more than capable defender at the highest level, He made 150 clearances last season compared to John Terry’s 217 but the Chelsea captain played 15 more league games last term, the part of defending that Stones excels at is his anticipation and this is highlighted by his 35 interceptions from last season compared Terry’s 32.
The Everton man has shown how good he is at reading the game at such a young age and big things are rightly expected of him. The most important thing for a developing footballer at a tender age is experience and that is precisely why he should remain under the tutelage of Martinez for at least the next two seasons, this will benefit him immensely allow him to prove himself as a reliable central defender, which is something every Evertonian and England fan believes he can mature in to.
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