So, it turns out Money Can Buy You Stones.
Well, of course it can… you just need enough of it at the right time and Chelsea’s offers which, if you believe the papers, went as high as £38m last August, failed on both counts. Neither Everton nor Roberto Martinez were prepared to sell John Stones so close to the end of the transfer window — and certainly not for anything under £40m.
On the one hand, Bill Kenwright and the Board were surely confident that, with the European Championships on the horizon and the defender still being so comparatively young (particularly for a defender), his value would only continue to rise.
On the other, Martinez was surely convinced that, with Everton's 2014-15 season being, in his eyes, an aberration, a successful 2015-16 season and the prospect of qualification for the Champions League would leave Stones feeling that he made the right decision to stay at Goodison Park.
The majority of the fans, meanwhile, were eager to shrug off the fact that he had submitted a transfer request, believing that the pressure of the spotlight and from his advisors had got to him and that he could settle back in and become the bedrock of the Blues’ defence for years to come.
The reality for Martinez and Everton looks as though it will end up being entirely different. The Catalan oversaw a disastrous campaign that ended with his sacking in May and Stones struggled in a failing team while fissures reformed in his relationship with some of the club’s fans.
That was illustrated by his infamous “calm down” gesture to the Gwladys Street after he had extricated himself from a tight spot with a series of Cruyff turns in his own six-yard box when “Row Z” would have been the preferred option so late in a game against title-chasing Tottenham.
While demonstrative of Stones’s confidence in his own abilities — perhaps his manager’s encouragement to “express himself” was also ringing in his ears — the incident also seemed to reveal a disconnect between the young player’s apparent lack of urgency and supporters’ unease at unnecessary risk-taking at a time when Everton were conceding late goals and throwing away points at Goodison Park on a frustratingly regular basis.
It’s for all of those reasons — the transfer request, the apparent lack of empathy with a nervy Goodison, his faltering form and, this summer, another request to leave — that fewer Evertonians will shed a tear as Stones leaves for the “greener pastures” of the Eithad Stadium.
It will still gnaw at the gut, however, that fans won’t get to see if Stones could blossom into the Everton defensive legend many believe he could have become. Certainly, there were high hopes that Koeman could have transformed him into a world-class, versatile, ball-playing centre-half in his own image.
The inflation of the domestic transfer market may have reached new levels of insanity this summer but, even allowing for Barnsley’s reported 15% sell-on clause, a guaranteed £47.5m fee still represents an enormous amount of money for a player who didn’t play a minute at Euro2016. Manchester City will be paying that premium, however, knowing that they are investing in potential and that, should he realise it, it will be money well-spent in the long run.
Everton will have the means to shop not only for his replacement but for reinforcements elsewhere to a defence that was severely depleted by the time Muhamed Besic had to be called into emergency service as a right- and centre-back back in April.
The frustration, as ever though, is that, while a player whose heart is not 100% Blue has been ushered out for a massive profit, the club they have lost a key player at a highly inconvenient juncture — five days before the start of the new season does not make for ideal preparation. Koeman will have had his targets in mind, and moves are already afoot to fill the void left by Stones... but it’s an unwanted distraction on the eve of the new campaign.
The dust will settle, of course; a talented young defender will be replaced and Koeman’s side may even be stronger for it defensively in the short-term but the saga is still an uncomfortable echo of Wayne Rooney 12 years ago. While the Moshiri era is still rich in its own promise, Everton are still not able to prevent their top talent from being lured away by their richer rivals. The hope is, of course, that that will not be the case for much longer.
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