‘Money can’t buy everything.’ It is a quote which could just see Everton turn a massive corner.
We’d been here before. Nearing the end of August and a star player’s future was in serious doubt. The transfer request had been made. The inevitable was sure to happen.
John Stones revealed his desire to leave Everton amid interest and three unsuccessful bids from Premier League champions Chelsea which in turn sent a seismic wave of negativity through an entire fanbase.
The pessimists knew Stones was off, while the optimists blindly and naively insisted he would stay. Though, deep down they doubted themselves. It had happened before and would happen again.
However, that feeling shifted thanks to Roberto Martinez. The Everton manager spoke to the media at Oakwell following Wednesday’s 5-3 victory over Barnsley in the League Cup and made his feelings absolutely clear on the subject. Stones is not for sale.
Martinez played an absolute blinder and told the watching world, in no uncertain terms, that John Stones would not be leaving Everton. The Blues boss has dealt with the entire situation brilliantly and deserves huge credit should the England defender stay beyond the transfer window.
Constantly questioned on Stones’ future by the press this summer, Martinez has batted away all of the interest with a smile on his face but has been stern when needed. Either way, the answer has been the same whatever the mood: John Stones is NOT for sale.
Not only did Martinez insist the request would be rejected the morning after the game, but he did not allow Stones’ desire to leave affect the side’s preparation for a competition which is vital to the club’s overall success this season.
We’ve seen players, agitating for a move, benched or completely dropped for the next game. Often the ‘player’s head isn’t right’ or they pick up a mysterious injury. Sure enough, the player fails to appear again and soon gets his move.
That is why starting Stones against his former club was the perfect way for Martinez to get his message across. Putting his name on the teamsheet showed Everton do not care for bids or requests and will rightly select a player contracted to the club.
One hundred per cent the right decision to make. Why should another club’s public, month-long attempts to unsettle a 21-year-old derail Everton’s season?
Shunning any bids, Martinez is adamant Bill Kenwright and the board will not sell and said: ‘I think that is going to be a very strong statement at Everton.
‘We have a Chairman who will do the right thing for the club and for the team and, as a true Evertonian, we are clear he will not be easily influenced in taking the money and accepting things which will clearly make our team weaker.’
Using the club’s proud history and tradition in many of his responses to the probes on Chelsea‘s interest was music to fans’ ears. We may not be a rich club at present but we are a big club – something Martinez is all too aware of.
After years of selling, it seems times are changing. The Everton boss will not let one of his best players leave. In his bid to build a ‘golden generation’ at Goodison, the Spaniard will have made it clear how losing a star man would be completely detrimental to what he is trying to achieve; no matter what the offer is on the table.
The statement from chairman Bill Kenwright made on Thursday reaffirmed Martinez’s stance and said: ‘John is not for sale and he will remain a highly valued member of our first team squad.’
While Stones hasn’t endeared himself to the Everton faithful after handing in a request this week, lining up alongside Phil Jagielka at the back is indeed commendable and shows his character.
Yes, he is a professional and he is paid to play football. It’s his job. However, many players before him have shied away and refused to appear in order to get their way. Not Stones, he got on with the game and will be stronger for it.
During a difficult situation, both Stones and Martinez deserve praise for not letting issues off the pitch affect the outcome on it.
Backing the player and laying no blame on Stones despite the request, Martinez said: ‘The situation with John is very clear. We care about him. We will protect him and make sure we give him everything we can to allow him to enjoy his football.’
No fall-out, no hard feelings, just an aim to help and improve his young centre back. Again, great management by the Everton boss in order to help the club move forward.
Stones will have the fans back on side simply by putting a shift in against Chelsea. We’ll move on. Brought closer together after a summer of uncertainty.
How good was it to hear the manager fight Everton’s corner so resolutely? Every comment was a further blow to Jose Mourinho’s pursuit of Stones. With the Chelsea boss now on the ropes, we will only be sure Martinez managed to land a knockout blow come September 1 when the transfer window shuts.
Of course, we’ve been fans long enough to know anything can happen in football but should be supremely confident Stones will be playing in Everton blue rather than Chelsea blue this season.
At Everton, we longed for the previous regime to stick up for the club’s cause but it never came. As the rich vultures circled for our prized assets, former boss David Moyes may scowl and bemoan the fact another team had dared attempt to sign one of his players. The saga would then drag on and the player would depart – much to the detriment of Everton as the 6-1 hammering to Arsenal showed before Joleon Lescott secured a switch to Man City in 2009.
Obviously, Martinez has been boosted by the game’s current TV money in his desire and attempts to keep Stones but it always felt like Moyes could have done more to try and keep his players. There was a reluctance in his demeanour which didn’t fit with a club the size of Everton.
Whether Moyes was being realistic or just downright pessimistic during his time at Goodison Park, isn’t it great we now have a manager who understands the enormity of the club he is managing?
In the same week Moyes insisted it is unlikely his Real Sociedad side will be ready for European football next season, Everton boast a manager who is desperate to keep one of his star men and adamant he will win trophies on Merseyside.
Now, with Stones more and more likely to stay, the challenge is to build in order for him to want to stay and regret his request. As a first-teamer, Everton should increase his £30,000-a-week contract to show how vital he is to the club’s future.
If we want to move forward as a club, there is no point in thinking: ‘We’ll keep Stones until the Euros or perhaps a year after that.’ We have to believe and hope he is here for the long haul. We have to have faith he will lift trophies as Everton captain, play for the Toffees during his prime and retire after hundreds of appearances for the club. Martinez has made us believe it can happen.
With Stones signing a five-year deal twelve months ago, if we held firm this summer, there is no stopping us remaining resolute until 2019 and beyond.
Martinez’s comments were a huge boost to supporters and will have buoyed the playing squad.
Young stars like Romelu Lukaku and Gerard Deulofeu will have taken great confidence from the manager’s comments and will have faith we are building to achieve. If Stones left, a player exodus would likely occur in the future and does not bear thinking about.
‘Clearly we have got to a point – in life and football – when sometimes money can’t buy everything.’ said Martinez.
It’s the sort of statement Everton fans were longing for, the club allaying our fears and giving Chelsea another firm ‘No’. After the gutting feeling we felt upon hearing of Stones’ request, Evertonians must have felt proud smiles return to their faces as Martinez spoke so passionately.
We’ve been given our pride back. We’re Everton. Nine League titles, five FA Cups. A powerhouse of English football and we won’t be bullied in our pursuit to return to the top.
It’s thanks to Roberto Martinez. He is an absolute credit to Everton Football Club.