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Stones’ rise to defensive prominence attracting Chelsea interest

Following his senior breakthrough at Stamford Bridge in 1998, after a successful spell as an academy player for both West Ham United and Chelsea, John Terry learned his defensive trade under the esteemed guidance of Frenchman Marcel Desailly, but the apprentice could soon become the master with John Stones’ potential signing.

The experienced Chelsea centre back forged a formidable partnership with former club and France international captain Desailly after the turn of the millennium, eventually taking over the mantle of skipper and becoming a crucial part of Jose Mourinho’s title-winning side well over a decade later.

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Although, with the Blues hopeful of acquiring the services of talented Everton defender Stones after a £20m bid, former England captain Terry could soon find himself taking on a role of mentor, with the potential new arrival at Stamford Bridge tipped for a great career, having started sublimely at Goodison Park (11/4 with Coral for top six finish 2015/16).

The Toffees’ 21-year-old defender has captured the attention of many top-flight clubs, but it seems Chelsea are leading the way for his long-term signature, although a second hefty offer may need to be agreed in order for such a deal to be completed, with Stones having signed a new five-year contract last summer.

A big-money move from Goodison Park would follow the recent trend of young English starlets being valued at seemingly grossly inflated prices, most notably in Liverpool, where the Anfield outfit received a massive £49m from rivals Manchester City for Raheem Sterling’s services earlier this summer.

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England international left back Luke Shaw also moved from Southampton to Manchester United last year for £30m, a price-tag which has yet to be paid back in performances, and it looks likely that a similar daunting fee will be needed for Chelsea to acquire the latest highly-rated homegrown talent from Everton.

Considering the versatile Barsnley-born defender joined the blue half of Merseyside for a mere £3m in 2013, the Toffees would be unlikely to turn down such a substantial second bid for a player still learning his trade, but it could be at Stamford Bridge where this young talent steps his game up a level.

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Even at 21 years of age, Stones is extremely highly regarded by both Everton and England coaching staff (12/1 with Coral to win Euro 2016), with his Under-21 boss Gareth Southgate heaping praise on the young defender during the eventual disappointing European Championship campaign.

“In terms of his comfort on the ball, Rio [Ferdinand] had that comfort on the ball, that ability to turn out and start again by stepping into midfield and using the ball effectively,” stated Southgate.

“He’s got a good leap, he’s quick and he deals well with things one-on-one. He’s as composed as any young defender I’ve seen. He’s outstanding in that area.”

Along with the price-tag comes huge pressure to hit the ground running, especially arriving at the home of the Premier League champions, and even more so under the demanding presence of serial winner Mourinho who expects instant results.

Chelsea have been searching for a suitably talented defensive partner for veteran Terry for some time now, but may need to find a replacement a lot sooner instead, as his contract expires next summer, following a recent extension.

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Kurt Zouma has been somewhat indifferent with the Blues so far in his short career, looking a towering astute giant in defence at times, but then faltering helplessly when faced with sterner opposition in other scenarios.

Gary Cahill is the other who has been deputising alongside Terry at centre back, while Real Madrid’s Raphael Varane is constantly tipped as a high-profile arrival in London, having worked closely with Mourinho at the Bernabeu previously.

However, Stones could be seen as the ideal candidate to be slotted alongside Terry this season, becoming an understudy to the experienced four-time Premier League winner, before potentially taking his place at the heart of Chelsea’s rear guard for many seasons to come (8/5 to retain title).

Having made his England bow last year, Stones clearly possesses the defensive capabilities and aggressive edge needed to succeed at the highest level, but only two years after his top-flight debut in a 1-0 triumph over Chelsea, he could soon be arriving at that platform earlier than expected.