Chelsea are ready to make Everton centre-half John Stones the first signing of the ‘Antonio Conte era’ despite his troubled campaign, according to the Mirror.
Hugely sought after during a summer transfer window that ended with the Toffees rebuffing a £37m from the Blues for his services, the lauded youngster has endured a torrid time in Roberto Martinez’s Swiss-cheese rearguard.
Widespread insistence, from his manager and numerous media heads, on Stones’ immense class only served to focus attention on his defensive errors.
Amid an already disorganized rearguard these began to occur with spiraling regularity the extent that he lost his place in first the centre of defence then the starting XI.
Last time out against Liverpool he was tossed aside like a rag doll by Divock Origi for the latter’s first-half header and even his endlessly-feted ability with the ball deserted him as he all but set up Daniel Sturridge’s goal with an errant pass.
So maybe the hype machine went a little overboard on the boy-child expected to be one his country’s greatest ever ball-playing centre-halves?
Not if Conte wants him, and it is apparently he, rather than simply the whim of Roman Abramovich that would see a Chelsea player next season.
The Mirror described the man who steered Juventus to three successive Scudetti on the back of a granite back-line as being ‘a huge admirer of Stones’ abilities’.
During the Italy manager’s three years in Turin, the Bianconeri conceded a mere 67 goals in 114 Serie A games, with a defence built around mainstays Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci and Andrea Barzagli.
All three remain integral to the Juve cause two seasons after his departure as they close in on another league title, on a run of 11 consecutive domestic clean sheets.
If Conte believes in Stones’ qualities as a defender, then the carping of the young man’s doubters is just noise.