Everton could face another battle to retain the services of John Stones, who is now attracting interest from European champions Barcelona.
The 21-year-old was a David Moyes signing for the Toffees, who paid a bargain £3million to lure him from Barnsley in January 2013. He has gone on to become one of the best central defenders in the Premier League, with his composure and intelligence belying of a player who, prior to making the switch to Merseyside, had made just 28 first team career appearances.
Chelsea made Stones their number one target last summer, but failed with a number of bids to prise him from Goodison Park despite the player handing in a transfer request to accelerate his route to the capital. Jose Mourinho, who has since left the Stamford Bridge club, was prepared to pay as much as £38million for the player, a value which is likely to have since increased.
Although Everton have conceded 32 times in the Premier League, Stones has continued to impress and is now said to be on the radar of Arsenal, Manchester City and Manchester United. As if this isn’t worrying enough for Roberto Martinez, it has also now been reported that Spanish giants Barcelona sent scouts to watch the England international in action on Saturday afternoon.
Stones played 90 minutes in a pulsating 3-3 draw at Chelsea, a result which angered the visitors who surrendered two points when John Terry equalised from an offside position deep into stoppage time. This was the 25th appearance of the campaign for the former Oakwell youngster, whose only league goal for the Blues came in a 3-0 win over Louis van Gaal’s United last term.
According to the Mail, Luis Enrique – recently voted FIFA Coach of the Year – wants Stones at Barcelona, where he plans to partner him with Gerard Pique in the heart of his back four. It is thought that the Camp Nou boss is prepared to offer Everton cash plus the services of Marc Bartra, the 25-year-old defender, although Martinez is sure to try his best to resist any bids.