The bwin odds compilers couldn’t be more on the fence about where Everton centre-half John Stones will be plying his trade at the close of the transfer window.
Chelsea’s interest in the young England international has been well documented this summer and the Toffees have already rebuffed an offer of £20m for his services.
Stones’ current employers and the reigning champions of English football are both 17/20 to count him among their ranks on September 4th.
The 21-year-old has been subject to something of a propaganda offensive from Stamford Bridge in recent weeks.
First Jose Mourinho incurred the ire of Roberto Martinez by making Chelsea’s interest in the defender public.
More recently Blues centre-half and Gary Cahill has been effusive in the praise of his sometime England teammate, telling Sky Sports News HQ:
“Stones is a great player.
“I’ve seen him in the Premier League, especially last season. I have seen him up close and personal and I’ve trained with him with England and he is a top young player.
“Of course, he is still young and of course he is still learning in many aspects, but in terms of potential he is fantastic.
“The manager, scouts and coaching staff make the decisions but he would be a great addition if it happened.”
Such a charm offensive is certain to have flattered Stones, but whether or not it will prove enough to lure him to Stamford Bridge even if Everton can be convinced to sell him is another matter.
Alongside Cahill, John Terry and arguably Kurt Zouma would all expect to start ahead of him, suggesting his development as a player could only suffer from a lack of first-team football comparative to that which he can expect on Merseyside.
Moreover, when it comes to how much Everton could reasonably demand for their man, the Mirror’s John Cross draws a pertinent parallel with the £30m Manchester United paid for Rio Ferdinand as a 23-year-old in 2002.
Stones is the England’s most promising centre-half now, just as Ferdinand was then.
Allowing for substantial subsequent inflation at the top end of the transfer market, not to mention the added premium placed on domestic talent by the homegrown players rule, Everton can surely demand a fee well north of that which United paid Leeds 13 years ago.