While it's unlikely an 18-year-old full-back from Barnsley was top of David Moyes's wishlist when the final day of the January 2013 transfer window rolled around, John Stones would emerge as Everton's only acquisition that month when the deadline eventually passed.
It was another investment made by Moyes with an eye on Everton's future and his prescience would become abundantly clear within months of the gangly Yorkshireman's arrival, albeit under the Scottish manager's successor and the man whom he pipped for Stones' signature, Roberto Martinez.
Stones was picked up in a deal that was officially undisclosed but is believed to have involved a £500,000 payment up front to the Championship side, with £3m eventually due based on appearances.
The initial amount was later said to be £1.25 million by Moyes.
Despite his tender age, Stones had already established himself in his hometown team, Barnsley's first team and had 24 appearances under his belt by the time Moyes made his approach.
He had come through their youth ranks before signing professional forms in December 2011 and made his debut for the Tykes the following March, scoring his first senior goal in August in a League Cup tie against Rochdale.
An England U19 international and a highly-rated prospect by the January 2013 transfer window, the defender looked destined for Wigan Athletic when the Yorkshire side was reported to have accepted a £3m offer.
Everton had stepped in with a matching offer within hours and Stones opted for the chance to join Everton's renowned Academy but Martinez would inherit the defender when he succeeded Moyes in the summer of 2013.
After signing on the dotted line at Finch Farm late on the evening of 31st January, the teenager expressed his delight at joining the Blues:
"I am very excited to be joining Everton. I've been very impressed with everything I have seen at Finch Farm already. Now the hard work begins."
Evertonians got their first glimpse of the youngster's precocious talents on the summer tour of the United States the following summer where he displayed remarkable composure as a right back and as part of a three-man defence. If that wasn't enough, his audacious "Panenka-style" chipped penalty kick against Juventus at AT&T Park in San Francisco was a highlight of the Blues' participation in the International Champions Cup.
Martinez had clearly seen enough maturity from him so that when changes in central defence were prompted by injury to Sylvain Distin and Phil Jagielka in the 2013-14 campaign, it was Stones to whom he turned and not veteran defender, John Heitinga.
Stones repaid his manager's faith with a string of excellent displays, his reputation exploding in the space of a few short months. He emerged as an unflappable, ball-playing centre half, a "Rolls Royce" of a player, ideally suited to the passing game instituted at Goodison by Martinez.
The belief that he was a good bet to be a future bulwark of Everton and England's defence was enhanced by his inclusion on the standby list for England's World Cup squad for the 2014 Finals in Brazil as a potential replacement for Manchester United defender Phil Jones.
The 2014-15 began slowly for Stones, who was at fault for goals that
allowed Leicester back in to level the game on the opening day. He
was benched for the next two games but was recalled against West Brom,
when Distin was injured, and helped Everton to their first win of the
But injuries were cursing Everton's already tough start and things were
to go from bad to far far worse toward the end of the game at Old
Trafford, when the youngster fell awkwardly after jumping for the ball,
and sustained ligament damage in his ankle that would keep him sidelined
for the next three months.
He was ever-present after the New Year, however, consolidating a partnership
with Phil Jagielka as Sylvain Distin was frozen out by Martinez.
Stones scored his first senior goal for the club, a brilliant Matt Jackson-style glancing header at the near post off a corner against
Manchester United, and he would go on to claim the Young Player of the Season award for his
increasingly imperious performances.
Those talents had not escaped the predatory attentions of Jose Mourinho at Chelsea who was in the market for a long-term successor to the ageing John Terry and mindful that, with a monstrous broadcast deal and the European Championships coming down the pike in 2016, Stones's value was only likely to go up.
A distastefully underhanded pursuit of the defender would play out through the tabloid media in the summer of 2015 as the London club lodged unsuccessful bids that ranged from £20m to a reported £38m just before the transfer deadline.
The pressure took its toll on the then 21-year-old and he stunned Everton when he handed in a request for a move a week before the transfer
window was due to close but the club remained resolute in their desire to not only keep their prized defender but also protect a player whom Martinez felt had been pressured into requesting a move away.
The transfer request was rejected and Stones remained with Everton to continue his impressive development while Chelsea's season went into a dramatic freefall that would soon cost Mourinho his job.
Nevertheless, 2015-16 would not be an easy season for John or Everton as the defensive weaknesses that dogged Martinez at Wigan amd many Evertonians feared would surface at Goodison began to undermine what had begun as a promising season.
A propensity by the team to relinquish leads and concede late goals led to increasing unease among the Goodison faithful where the defence was concerned and this was not helped by Stones's desire to play his way out of trouble rather than "hit row Z".
That collective uncertainty came to a head late in a 1-1 draw with Tottenham in early 2016 when the Park End reacted very nervously to the young defender doing Cruyff turns in his own six-yard box. Stones had the temerity to
signal that the fans should 'calm down' but he was criticised further for poor defending in an ill-fated Capital One Cup semi-final at Manchester City later that January.
Debate would continue amid worsening results under Martinez whether the problem was down to Stones's over-elaboration and poor positional sense or the manager's inability to organise his defence on the one hand and refusal to coach mistakes out of his defenders on the other. Stones's form would gradually pick up as the season progressed, however, even while the Blues' form continued to nosedive, and he was selected as one of Roy Hodgson's three centre-halves for England at Euro2016,
only to remain unused as the Three Lions failed once again at a major
By the time he returned to Finch Farm after extended leave in the
Summer of 2016, Pep Guardiola was reported by some sources to be courting
the young star for his rebuilding project at Manchester City, but Everton
hoped to deter the move with a £50m price tag.
The speculation dragged on and overshadowed somewhat Everton's pre-season preparations, with Martinez's successor, Ronald Koeman, hoping to persuade the young star to remain at Everton.
The player's mind was apparently set, however, and £47.5m transfer was announced five days ahead the start of the 2016-17 season, signalled inadvertently by the publication of Stones's inclusion in City's Champions League squad by Uefa on the morning of 9 August, 2016.
Confirmation of a deal that could top out at £50m once appearance-related add-ons are taken into account followed shortly afterwards, ending Stones's
3½-year spell at Goodison Park during which time he made 95 appearances for the Blues.
It remains to be seen if the so-called 'new Bobby Moore' becomes 'the
future England captain', but his many Everton critics would claim Stones
wasn't actually a very good defender, with little positional awareness,
who was constantly out-jumped on corners and crosses which led directly to
goals conceded on numerous occasions.
• Wikipedia Entry
Note: Everton Career
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