After watching Everton defender John Stones perform with aplomb in the Toffees’ recent 3-0 thumping of Arsenal, the Emirates money-men are mulling over a move for the former Barnsley youth this summer, according to reports.
The fourth and fifth-placed teams in the Premier League are locked in a battle to finish in the last Champions League spot, with Roberto Martinez’s men leapfrogging their opponents following their 1-0 win at Sunderland.
Gunners boss Arsene Wenger’s future at the club is far from assured despite Arsenal’s breath-taking FA Cup semi-final .penalty shoot-out win against Wigan and the Gunners must now regroup in time to beat West Ham at 4/9 in their next Premier League fixture, or face disaster.
The north Londoners’ fractured hierarchy are planning for a future with or without their veteran coach and Stones is thought to be near the top of their list of targets to replace outgoing captain Thomas Vermaelan at centre-half.
Having started the season as a reserve right-back, the 6ft 2in Barnsley native has caught the eye alongside Sylvain Distin, after Phil Jagielka was ruled out for eight weeks with a hamstring strain at the start of March.
The Merseyside blues have won all seven of their Premier League fixtures with Stones starting since and they’re now two points clear of Arsenal with only five gameweeks remaining in the campaign.
Everton would expect to make a colossal profit on a player former boss David Moyes paid £3m for less than 15 months ago, although, with the balance of power in the Premier League seemingly swinging towards Merseyside this term, Stones may be reluctant to leave Goodison Park so quickly.
Distin turned 36 in December and won’t be able to cope with the demands of the fast-paced Premier League for much longer, so Stones could expect plenty of game-time under Martinez over the coming campaigns.
At Arsenal, the 19-year-old would likely start next season behind both Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker in the centre-half ranks, which could impede the development of a player expected to push for full England honours after this summer’s World Cup.