The Daily Mail has reported that Chelsea and Arsenal are set to spark a London battle to sign talented teenage defender John Stones from Everton.
Stones has been in superb form over the last couple of weeks, with his performance in the 3-0 win against Arsenal attracting him a great deal of praise with the suggestion that he could hold his own for England at the World Cup this summer.
The 19-year-old probably wouldn’t have expected to have the season he’s having, enjoying regular game time under Roberto Martinez when he was playing for Barnsley in the Championship last season.
Jose Mourinho is making a habit of snapping up young players at the moment, investing heavily early on to reap the rewards of that strategy over the next few years.
Any deal for Stones is unlikely to be easy or cheap and it could also cause complications for the player widely regarded as John Terry’s replacement who Chelsea signed on the final day of the last transfer window; Kurt Zouma.
Zouma was bought for £12 million and loaned straight back to Saint-Etienne, with Mourinho potentially thinking that he’d groom the Frenchman to eventually replace Terry next season.
However, should the Blues do a deal for Stones, someone who is proving to be very talented in the Premier League, it could set Zouma back in his Chelsea career before he’s even kicked a ball in anger for the club.
Stones’ arrival would also have complications for Zouma which aren’t just generated by the fact the Englishman can play in central defence.
His solid ability to play as a right-back would also provide Mourinho with the opportunity to move Branislav Ivanovic back into a central position, providing him with another option in the heart of the back four next year.
Ivanovic has done a solid job at right-back for the Blues this season but as he gets a little bit older, it makes sense to try and move him back into a central position where he’d be able to play effectively for longer.
Chelsea would be naïve to pass up any opportunity to sign Stones because he’s a top quality player and one of England’s best defensive talents at the moment, but whether Zouma would have moved in that £12 million deal had he known Chelsea would go after someone who can play in his exact position is doubtful.