Manchester United are already looking ahead to the January transfer window and reports suggest they could be about to make another assault for highly-rated Everton defender John Stones.
The 21-year-old England international had been on the radar of several top Premier League clubs during the summer, most notably the Red Devils and Chelsea before finally pledging his immediate future to the Merseyside club.
Everton’s hard-line stance in flatly rejecting every Chelsea bid for John Stones has been both admirable and questionable in equal measure. On the one hand, Everton is standing up for themselves by refusing to let their star defender leave; on the other, they are refusing an exorbitant fee for a young talent still fighting to prove.
As manager Roberto Martinez suggested, it’s a massive statement of intent from the club to stay firm and reject Chelsea’s bids. The Toffees have turned a corner and this could be a huge watershed moment for Everton.
It is believed, however, that although Stones has extended his stay at Goodison Park, his new deal contains a fixed buy-out clause enabling him to talk to other clubs should a mega-offer arise.
Stones, who was a boyhood Manchester United fan, was signed by David Moyes whilst the Scot was in charge at Everton, with the former Sociedad manager clinching his signature from under the nose of Sir Alex Ferguson.
The defender is simply irreplaceable. Destined to be one of the best in his position, no amount of money would make up for his departure.
Supporters were hurt by the 21-year-old’s transfer request and some made their feelings heard during Everton’s 5-3 Capital one cup win over Barnsley on Wednesday.
However, it must be said it was a very small section of the support who booed Stones – the majority of fans at Oakwell sang his name and will continue to back him; starting at White Hart Lane on Saturday.
While Martinez and the board’s stance are great for the club and fans, Everton’s stance provides a boost for the English game too.
Premier League chairmen and managers will be buoyed by Everton’s fighting spirit in not being bullied by a club willing to splash whatever cash is needed to sweep up rival club’s talent.
The ‘Not for sale’ line actually meant something this summer.
He will leave Everton within the next two years regardless of what happens between now and the end of the transfer window. Stones is on the verge of being an elite player – and he’s not at an elite club.
Chelsea is vastly overpaying for a player of Stones’ current ability. They want to make him the most expensive English defender of all time and he’s played less than 100 professional games. It’s hardly getting him on the cheap. Of course, they’re investing for his future.
Who knows what will happen this season? An injury or loss of form could mean this is the most Stones will ever be worth.
And if he does stay, you can bet every last pound of that £38m that we’ll be having this debate again next summer.
Let’s not dress this up as the evils of modern football: players have been agitating for upwards moves since the dawn of the professional game.
And so they should. Stones isn’t a dyed-in-the-wool Toffee, Everton took him from Barnsley in 2013. Stones was looking for a better job for more money and more scope for development – he’s now looking to do the same again.
Only last month, Tony Henry, the scout who persuaded Moyes to sign Stones, stated that he thought the former Barnsley graduate could one day end up playing for Real Madrid but for now, it looks as though the imposing centre-back will have to fend off more offers from much closer to home.