John Stones Would Be Foolish To Move To Chelsea
Over the past few weeks, a transfer story that refuses to quieten down is the one linking Everton defender John Stones with a move to Chelsea.
The current Premier League champions have made no secret about their pursuit of the 21-year-old Englishman, with both Jose Mourinho and John Terry talking up his qualities in the media. This has infuriated his manager at Everton Roberto Martinez, who has blasted Chelsea's "illegal approaches" toward one of his star players, and repeatedly stating that Stones is not for sale at any price.
Yet this does not appear set to halt their interest, as they will likely prepare a third bid in the region of £30 million.
This speculation will have no doubt piqued the interest of the young centre-half, who has made 55 appearances for the Toffees since signing from Barnsely in 2013. Stones has been touted as one of the best English prospects coming forward, already having accrued four caps for the national team.
As a player lacking in experience and only a few seasons into his Premier League career, it is only natural for Stones to have his eye caught at the prospect of playing for the best team in the country right now. With no disrespect intended towards Everton, at Chelsea he would be guaranteed the opportunity to win titles, trophies and compete in the Champions League. However, this potential comes with a number of memorable warnings that make it unwise for Stones at this stage of his career.
This is not a case of "if you're good enough, you're old enough". Personally Stones has impressed me with his composure, touch and tackling ability, and has plenty of potential to become a world class defender in future. He certainly isn't there yet, and at his current level of competitiveness certainly does not command the fee that is being discussed. The market might be a lot more expensive at this time, particularly when it comes to English talent, but that is a fee that Rio Ferdinand once commanded. It is very rare to see that quantity of money being expended on a defensive player.
Stones does not have the reputation to justify that fee at this moment in time. Ferdinand had already completed six full seasons in the Premier League when he earned his big money move to Manchester United, making over 200 appearances for West Ham and Leeds. He was therefore experienced, at the peak of his powers and was completely ready to stake his claim to be first choice centre-back at the biggest club in England. That made sense, whereas Stones has some way to go before he surpasses 100 games, and last season with Everton was not exactly an impressive one for any of their squad. They severely underperformed, finishing in the bottom half of the table despite having a team strong enough to challenge for European places.
Thus, it is currently unknown whether Stones can thrive under the expectation of making a big difference to Chelsea in their bid to retain the title and the weight of that transfer valuation. His exposure on the world stage will grow exponentially as a member of the Blues, and if he is not yet ready to perform under those watchful eyes of expectant fans at Stamford Bridge, then his form and once sparkling future could disintegrate.
Furthermore, there is the age-old issue of team's signing players for considerable amounts of money, and then having no place for them in the starting line-up. Names like Scott Sinclair, Jack Rodwell and Victor Moses have seen their careers stall and fade by joining a top four side and never getting the opportunity to play. There is already a significant amount of talent in every big club in England at the moment that someone joining their ranks cannot be guaranteed a place in the first team unless they are a remarkable talent. John Stones does not meet that caliber of talent when he is still raw and unproven. You have to be a Wayne Rooney, not a Francis Jeffers.
And I don't care who you are or how much money you are worth, trying to force your way into Chelsea's back four is a challenge most would buckle at. Some may view it as a great opportunity for Stones to learn and to become hungry for chances to perform and outshine their current set-up, but in my opinion it is putting up a brick wall. John Terry still has at least two seasons of leading Chelsea after superb performances since Mourinho's return to the hotseat, and has formed a strong connection to centre-back partner Gary Cahill, who has also established himself as England's number one choice. And whilst Stones is flexible enough to play at right-back if necessary, then his path to games is blocked by Branislav Ivanovic, arguably the most complete defender in the Premier League today, and possibly in its entire history.
Stones would have a fight to break up this unit that were the cream of the crop last season, and signing him would seem like another case of Chelsea signing a player simply so nobody else can get to them. Prior examples of this are Mohamed Salah and Juan Cuadrado, who joined the team for significant sums of cash only to be restricted to places on the bench and cameos.
The thing Stones should remember that it is going to happen eventually. It is not as though he is whittling away in the Championship or a club that's going to be battling against relegation. He is a regular starter for a strong team at Everton that has undoubted hopes of pushing for European places this campaign if they get their act together.
It's an excellent place for him to prove himself against top teams, go far in cup competitions and get regular football in the most demanding and excellent league in the world. Give it one or two more years, and if Stones has continued to make progress, teams like Chelsea, Arsenal and the Manchester clubs are going to be circling with great interest.
Stones could then be at liberty to have a greater say in his own future, or be able to demand greater wages or bonuses due to his success at Everton. At the moment, he is simply a great bundle of potential with virtually zero evidence to illustrate his readiness to step up a level.
The young defender will eventually find himself frustrated at the lack of chances he receives, or burdened under the load of his £30 million price tag.
So, he should really do himself a favour and continue his education and development at a smaller but still strong club, and when he is more mature and playing at a top level, he'll walk into the Chelsea team without breaking a sweat.