Well it had to happen some time didn’t it? In a short space of time John Stones has shown an unparalleled amount of potential and has been hailed as one of the greatest young defenders in world football. The fact I can write the previous sentence without the mere hint that I may be exaggerating is a testament to how good he is at the present moment, too. But add the fact he’s just 21 years old and more importantly, English, then John Stones is one hell of a powerhouse and a very rare commodity.
You’d be foolish to think any interest in the player wouldn’t be forthcoming sooner or later. Now that it has and the context in which it has come have been established, it’s left Everton in a very precarious position.
Forget the £20 million – it’s little more than testing the waters for Chelsea and inevitably a starting point to test Everton’s resolve. But regardless of it being £2 million or twenty, it’s forced Everton’s hand at a time in which they could very much do without any added criticism. However, this could, and I stress could, be no bad thing for the club if it’s dealt with correctly.
Every player has a price, there’s no doubting that. But I think it’s apparent that even Chelsea are not willing to part with the funds that would seem worthy of seeing Stones leave Merseyside at this moment in time – and you have to presume they would be very sought after funds given what little expenditure the club have to show on its books this summer. This is where Everton have a rare chance to show some intent and ambition, but it has to be two fold.
The first thing to do is to take Jose Mourinho’s advice – tell Chelsea the player is not for sale at any price. Simple as that. Don’t prolong a saga that serves no purpose in what is a fragile time for the club and not least its manager after an appalling season and little in way of bolstering this summer. This is the easy bit.
And that leads to the second and more pertinent issue; Match that ambition by signing some players.
It’s relatively simple for a club to say players aren’t for sale, they do it whether they are or whether they aren’t. But if Everton are to remain firm and make a statement to a disillusioned fan base, then intent and ambition has to be shown in equal measure in everything aspect of their transfer dealings.
Gerard Deulofeu and Tom Celverely, whatever your opinion of them both, are certainly not enough to rejuvenate a squad that last season looked depressingly bereft of any of the qualities it showed the year before. Everton lack numbers and more importantly they lack quality. We can debate all day which positions require most attention, but I don’t think any Evertonian can argue this squad has enough to compete for European qualification as it stands. At this point I must ask, does the business done this summer amount to the ambition shown by rebuffing any offer for John Stones? Of course it doesn’t.
From that standpoint, it simply isn’t enough that Everton reject bids for their best players, that isn’t showing as ambition as much as they’d tell you it does. As I said before, that’s the easy part. The difficult and glaringly obvious problem is making John Stones look like one of many jewels in the Everton crown.
This current predicament gives Everton a chance to show they have a plan and to show there is ambition at the club.
When Wayne Rooney left in 2004, that was marked by some as the final nail in the Everton coffin. It was heartbreaking for a number of reasons, not least because not even the most hardened of Everton fans could actually justify an argument for him staying given the squad around him and a lack of ambition shown in the transfer market. Could you actually blame Rooney leaving a club that finished 17th the previous year and not buying any players?
Everton have a chance to ensure the same heartbreak isn’t engulfing the stands of Goodison 11 years on. John Stones doesn’t strike me as being a lad who’d be banging on the door to leave Everton, but equally, he clearly has big ambitions to succeed in his career. It’s all well and good telling him and everybody else his place is with Everton, but ultimately they must show John Stones and the fanbase that Everton have the same ambition.