Everton are facing a mass exodus this summer, with John Stones and Romulu Lukaku the most likely to depart after the club failed to qualify for European football. The Sunday Express reports that the former is a priority target for the new Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho, while the Mail on Sunday suggests Barcelona are set to make a £25m offer for the defender. He had a disappointing campaign and was partially to blame for the club’s poor defensive showings. However there is no doubt that he has the ability to develop into a top class centre half, and that is why he is being linked to some of the biggest clubs in the world.
He played in 35 league matches as he became the club’s premier centre back, ahead of Phil Jagielka and Ramiro Funes Mori. He is a good passer of the ball and a modern day centre back, capable of launching attacks from deep, as highlighted by his pass completion of 89%. This is better than both of the current Manchester United centre backs, Chris Smalling (82%) and Daley Blind (84%). Stones is also more effective in the air as his aerial duels won percentage is 63.75%, beating Smalling (63.68%) fractionally and Blind (38.64%) hugely. The latter isn’t known for his aerial ability though.
In terms of tackles won per 90 minutes, Blind is the best, winning 1.94, more than both Stones (1.17) and Smalling (1.11). Stones lacks the ability to read the game as well as the Manchester United pair, who both make over two interceptions per game, while Stones makes 1.81 interceptions. A problem with Stones’ game has been his proneness for making costly mistakes as he takes needless risks in dangerous areas. He made three errors that directly led to goals, while the current Manchester United first choice centre back pairing made none between them.
This summer, Stones is likely to be starting alongside Chris Smalling in the European Championships for England, and that will be interesting for Mourinho, as that could be his long term centre back pairing for Manchester United. Both are good ball players and could make Manchester United very exciting to watch, with attacks being launched from deep. Stones needs to show that he can be consistent and Everton’s poor defence was due to Roberto Martinez and not his own mistakes.
The link to Barcelona is interesting as they already have lots of good options at centre back, but it might be an insurance option if they are to lose Marc Bartra this summer. If their interest is concrete, it might be a good option for Stones, as he would get the perfect footballing education and the team would suit his style of play. Also he would be required to defend less, which suits him, as he prefers to have the ball at his feet and drive forward.
John Stones is approaching a huge season, as he must start to show that he is developing into the player many have thought possible. It would be wise to wait until Everton appoint a new manager before deciding on where his future lies. However, links to Manchester United and Barcelona must be listened to. If he does decide to move, he needs to consider which club better suits him, both in terms of style of play and minutes on the pitch. He can’t afford to move clubs and be a squad player, he needs to play football, which is why another year at Everton may be more beneficial in the long term.