The John Stones saga has had Evertonian’s all over the world counting down the days to the close of the transfer window.
Everton have reiterated time and again that the defender is not for sale, and rejected three official bids from Chelsea – but after the 21-year-old’s transfer request earlier this week, the Blues expected the worse.
The media had all but sold Stones to Chelsea, and were seemingly surprised that the Barnsley academy graduate started against his former side in the Capital One Cup tie, despite the fact he still has four years left on his Everton contract.
What he did say however was music to Evertonian’s ears, and also a great credit to the club as his firm words proved that Everton mean business. “Money can’t buy you everything in life”, Martinez said. “Stones is not for sale, not at all.”
The words from Martinez would have hit Jose Mourinho and Chelsea hard, as Mourinho stated in July that: “If one day Roberto Martinez or the Chairman says: ‘he is not for sale; we don’t accept any bid’, it’s game over”.
Whether or not the Portuguese stays true to his word, is another matter but what Evertonian’s wanted to know, is if the board, and in particular Bill Kenwright echoed the powerful statements made by Martinez.
The answer was resounding, as yesterday Everton declined Stones’s transfer request and Kenwright made a statement of his own.
The most powerful quote from the statement read: “John is not for sale and he will remain a highly valued member of our first team squad”.
It was great for Evertonian’s to see the Chairman publicly backing Martinez, however they can’t rest too easy as history suggested the words hold little meaning.
Everton defender Joleon Lescott had his transfer request rejected in the summer of 2009, as he was branded “not for sale” by the club – despite that, he still made a £24M switch to Manchester City later that month.
To compare the two situations, would be unfair though as in Roberto Martinez you have a manager who has echoed his sentiments from day one, publicly stating that Stones will not be sold for any price.
He has also reassured Evertonian’s that Stones is a vital part of the squad he is building, and that Everton are no longer a selling club.
In Stones, you have a player who appears to have a professional attitude towards the situation. Lescott, refused to play for the Blues in order to force a big money move, Stones however, continues to pull on the royal blue jersey and play through the pressure.
If Stones continues to act professionally and perform in the manner expected of him, there is little to suggest that he will be departing Goodison Park this summer.
As a club, Everton have handled the situation excellently, despite the bombardment from Chelsea’s players and management, as well as the influence from the media. They appear to have protected Stones and shown faith in the youngster, who has had his head turned by the unwelcome distraction.
The Toffees now need to act on their words and keep hold of Stones. No amount of money should prize the 21-year-old away from Goodison.
In John Stones, Everton have arguably one of the best talents to pull on the blue shirt since Wayne Rooney. There is little the defender can’t do and Evertonian’s see him as a future club captain.
There is no doubt Stones has the potential to play at the very top, and one day he will get there; whether with Everton or another side. For the time being though, the board at Everton, and in particular Kenwright must keep their promises and continue to reject any incoming bids for the defender.
To sell Stones now is unthinkable. It would leave Everton as a club, in a mess.
You can argue that big players such as Marouane Fellaini, Wayne Rooney, Mikel Arteta and Joleon Lescott have departed with ease. This time however it feels completely different.
Part of the fan base is already protesting against the board, and the sale of Stones would put the board’s remaining credibility up for serious debate.
It would also make Martinez’s position almost untenable, as the sale of Stones would leave the Spaniard publicly humiliated by his hierarchy.
Most importantly though, Everton have a spine of exciting young players that have the potential to take the club back to the top; Stones is a big part of that and his departure would surely leave Ross Barkley, James McCarthy and Romelu Lukaku with food for thought.
It is time for Everton as a club, to make a statement and prove that they are not a selling club. So many promising players have departed Goodison over the last decade, and keeping hold of one of England’s most promising talents, would prove to the loyal fan base that the club is moving in the right direction.