Chelsea and Arsenal looking to steal Toffees starlet Stones
Everton starlet John Stones is being linked with a move away from Goodison Park, just one season after joining, with the likes of Premier League third-favourites Chelsea (4/1) and top-four rivals Arsenal (8/13) reportedly tracking the young defender.
Ball-playing centre back Stones is still just 19-years-old, but has earned high praise from many after making his first Premier League start on New Year’s Day. Since then he has played in all but two matches in the league, which has coincided with the Everton remarkable rise to being on the brink of finishing the season in the top four (13/10).
The Toffees are now just a point behind Arsenal – who are in fourth – but have a game in hand, with five to go. Surely if Everton are playing Champions League football next season, they’ll be able to hang onto the likes of Stones and fellow in-demand English star Ross Barkley.
Manager Roberto Martinez gave the former Barnsley product his first team chances after injuries to right back Seamus Coleman and Phil Jagielka. With the latter being sidelined for the last month-and-a-half, Stones has shone at centre back, and helped the Toffees to seven straight league wins – with four cleansheets.
On the topic of Jagielka’s return, Martinez said: “John Stones has been phenomenal. I don’t think his position in the team is going to be based on other players coming back or not. It’s going to be based on how he feels and how his body is coping with this new experience.”
Current centre back partner Sylvain Distin, meanwhile, said: “John listens, his reading of the game is great and he has a good mentality. That’s the most important thing too. He’s a big character and a great guy who is willing to listen and learn.
“He’s got that new generation confidence,” the Frenchman added. “When I started as a footballer I wouldn’t speak. But this new generation are a lot more confident. They go forward a lot more too.”
Stones, who has eight Under-21 caps, is now even being tipped for a call-up to Roy Hodgson’s World Cup England squad this summer. His odds have dramatically shortened now to 16/1, and will hope to get in ahead of the likes of other outsiders Michael Dawson (14/1), Joleon Lescott (7/1) and Steven Caulker (5/1), as well as Chris Smalling (1/2).
As he is also adept at playing right back, Stones could be an option as cover for Glen Johnson, should Spurs’ Kyle Walker not recover from his injury.
If Stones makes the plane to Brazil, he will come up against Uruguay, Italy and Costa Rica in Group D. England are third-favourites to qualify from that pool odds-on at 8/15, or to finish top at 2/1. They are 28/1 shots, meanwhile, to win the World Cup.