With the 21-year-old emerging as one of the finest young English prospects in the game over the past couple of years, TheHardTackle explains why Chelsea FC would be making the right decision by preparing to return with a higher bid for the Everton youngster
Jos Mourinho has returned to pre-season training with Chelsea FC having completed the signings of striker Radamel Falcao – on loan from AS Monaco – as well as goalkeeper Asmir Begovi from Stoke City. Ostensibly, the two are like-for-like replacements for departing legends Didier Drogba and Petr A?ech respectively, and as such, despite most Blues fans being satisfied with the new recruits, the summer window has been a relatively quiet one.
That, however, changed dramatically on Friday when reports emerged that Everton had rejected a A?20 million offer from Chelsea FC for young defender John Stones. With Premier League fans familiar with the youngster’s quality and aware of his burgeoning talent, it is easy to understand why the news generated the buzz of excitement amongst the Blues’ supporters that had hitherto been absent this summer.
With Mourinho confirming that his club had indeed made a bid for Stones, there are reports in the English press suggesting that the Stamford Bridge outfit might be willing to up their offer in order to get their man. If they are successful in their pursuit, it might just prove to be one of the signings of the summer – if only in terms of the potential of the player rather than the impact he would have on the Chelsea FC first team next season.
Stones is the quintessential modern centre-back with world-class potential
John Stones is – on the evidence of the past couple of years – already a very good footballer. Aged just 21, however, it is the potential he shows that has English fans, ex-players and pundits alike waxing lyrical about his ability and his potential future with the England national team.
The young centre-half combines his considerable defensive ability with his athleticism and ball-playing abilities – the ideal blend of attributes for the quintessential modern centre-back. Chelsea FC have moved from a more physical, direct approach during Mourinho’s first spell in charge to a more expansive, more attractive brand of football, and John Stones is the ideal centre-back for such a system.
Although the Blues have one of the best centre-back pairings in the league in Gary Cahill and John Terry, there is one obvious shortcoming in the Cahill-Terry tandem: pace. Although Mourinho is not known for employing a high defensive line, Chelsea’s best football involves pressing opposition high up the pitch, which necessarily means the defence has to push up to close the space vacated by the midfield defensive block led by Nemanja Mati .
In such a scenario, Cahill and Terry are vulnerable to fast counter-attacks if the Blues are unable to win the ball back, or indeed if they lose possession in dangerous areas of the pitch. Sadio Man ‘s goal last season in the 1-1 draw at St.Mary’s is an ideal example of this.
For all of Terry’s defensive nous and superb sense of positioning, there have been occasions during the past season when the Blues’ skipper has been left utterly exposed – teams with technically sound players have bypassed the Chelsea FC midfield and manufactured opportunities to run at the Englishman – particularly evident in the Capital One Cup semi-final tie against Liverpool and for periods against the likes of Swansea at Stamford Bridge and Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane.
Stones, whilst not being nearly as good a defender as Terry at this stage, has the pace to deal with such situations, or indeed to recover from any positional errors he might make. In addition to that, in comparison to Cahill, the Everton youngster is far more composed on the ball and has the ability to step out and distribute effectively. A ball-playing centre-back with the ability to pass the football quickly through the opposition’s defensive lines is a priceless asset, particularly for a team like Chelsea FC that tends to play against packed defences.
As such, the 21-year-old is the ideal defender for the type of football Chelsea FC desire to play going forward. For his age, Stones shows a maturity well beyond his years, and that is, in part, what has prompted Roy Hodgson to hand the defender four international caps with the Three Lions.
The former Barnsley centre-back has attributes that would complement those of French youngster Kurt Zouma, and the two could form a formidable, complete defensive pairing – boasting strength, athleticism and ability on the ball – for Chelsea FC for years to come.
An investment to secure the Blues’ future
John Stones is – at his current level – objectively not worth the A?30 million or more that Everton are likely to demand for him. However, it is his potential that Chelsea FC must invest in this summer. Neither Roman Abramovich nor Jos Mourinho can reasonably be accused of short-term thinking since the Portuguese’s return to the club, and the signing of Stones would further highlight the fact that the Blues are building for the future whilst being competitive in the present.
Gary Cahill, John Terry and centre-back option Branislav Ivanovi will all be on the wrong side of 30 by the end of this season, and the Blues have to plan for a future without their captain, leader, legend. Stones could potentially be the former England captain’s replacement.
Mourinho hinted as much when speaking to the press at the Blues’ pre-season training head-quarters in Montreal, saying: “No one is irreplaceable. Difficult to replace, yes. To replace one by one is very difficult, very difficult.
a To replace over time, with a good structure, a good dynamic and good options, ita s possible. We were champions without Frank, we were champions with Petr Cech playing six matches not 38, and one day when John finishes a which I dona t think will be next season a one day when he stops, we have already created a situation for John to be replaced.”
Although Chelsea FC have a number of young centre-backs on their books – including Andreas Christensen and TomA?A? Kalas who have already been loaned, and Kenneth Omeruo who will soon follow – the arrival of John Stones would not necessarily rule out a future at the club for the loanees.
Kalas’ versatility means he can operate just as effectively as a right-back, whilst the supremely talented Christensen is still a teenager, has signed a long-term deal and will likely be loaned out to a club playing at a high level for at least a couple of seasons – Borussia M nchengladbach an ideal destination.
Omeruo, despite being the most experienced at the international level, requires a successful loan spell in the top division to capture Mourinho’s attention. The bottom line is also, of course, that none have quite the same potential as Stones, who will also be a home-grown player and add to the Blues’ English contingent – something Mourinho has always considered important.
Quite simply, the defence is the one area where Chelsea FC have yet to secure enough quality players for the medium to long term, and John Stones would go a long way towards addressing that existential need. With Kurt Zouma already progressing at the club, the signing of Stones would secure Mourinho’s defensive options for the foreseeable future.
Chelsea FC must strike when the iron is hot
The Blues have timed the pursuit of Stones perfectly, and must ensure that it reaches fruition this summer. Potentially losing Stones to one of their title rivals is not something Chelsea FC will be keen on letting happen, given his precocious talent.
Manchester United have bought impressively this summer, and are set to continue to spend with the likes of NicolA?s Otamendi and Sergio Ramos targeted to bolster Louis van Gaal’s defensive options. Manchester City have also sprung into action finally, having secured Englishmen Raheem Sterling and Fabian Delph, and looking to spend further on the likes of Kevin de Bruyne.
The two Manchester clubs are likely to be Chelsea’s main competition for Stones, and the Blues must take advantage of the fact that neither see the Everton youngster as their priority at this stage. If the Blues do not strike now, there could be a potential bidding war a season or two down the line, which could further increase the Toffees’ transfer fee demands.
The timing also makes sense given that Stones – if he arrives this summer – will not be under immediate pressure to justify his potentially record price-tag. The youngster can take his time, learning from the likes of Cahill and in particular, Terry, and challenge for a place in the first team in a similar vein to Zouma last season.
The Frenchman improved in a defensive sense by leaps and bounds last term working under Mourinho and learning from the likes of Terry, and Stones is unlikely to find better mentors to help him grow as a footballer.
Everton will be understandably reticent to part ways with a player of the quality of Stones, but Chelsea FC must try and complete a move this summer. When John Terry departs – the last bastion of the most successful era in the history of Chelsea Football Club – the void he will leave at SW6 will be nigh-impossible to fill.
Perhaps another talented young Englishman named John, however, might have a chance.