Another underwhelming weekend for John Stones has, as ever, done nothing to curtail rampant speculation regarding the 21-year-old’s future.
Once the daily transfer talk revolving around the defender has ended, there’s never any time to discuss his performances, which are consistently some way short of justifying the stratospheric sum he will inevitably fetch when one of the many suckers suitors looking to sign him eventually does so.
Today it’s Manchester City’s turn to be linked with a Stones bid, the fresh twist this time being it will be made in tandem with an offer for Athletic Bilbao centre-back Aymeric Laporte and cost in the region of £80m.
The price tag mentioned, albeit a combined one, serves as a direct contradiction for a player who, at present, isn’t good enough to get in the Everton defence in his preferred position.
Roberto Martinez uses Stones as first reserve to Phil Jagielka and Ramiro Funes Mori, two able defenders who not even the most haphazard of carefree spenders would consider shelling out £50m for.
Regardless of age and experience, if the youngster was all that, he’d be able to keep one of the two out of the team.
Moreover, it’s not as if the defence he can’t get into excels in the field in which it specialises.
Last weekend’s 3-2 defeat at home to West Ham took their goals conceded tally to 39, a benchmark only five top-tier rivals have sunk below so far.
Stones made his first start in six games (Everton won five of those he was omitted from) against the Irons, as part of a back three alongside the aforementioned duo.
It was a tactical shift that was seemingly made to facilitate the out-of-favour Yorkshireman, but was abandoned at the interval in light of Kevin Mirallas’ red card.
Stones’ deployment in a back three came after the failed experiment of playing him at right-back as cover for injured Seamus Coleman.
Despite his much-heralded comfort in possession and passing prowess, the England star did little to convince he could sufficiently cover the Irishman and promptly lost his makeshift place upon Coleman’s recovery.
These shoehorning toils, which have come at the expense of results, must’ve convinced the Toffees that when bidders come calling this summer, they’ve got to sell the vastly over-valued Stones.