Everton boss Roberto Martinez has hinted that John Stones could yet be granted his wish to join Chelsea, arguing that this summer was “not the right moment” for the centre-half to move to Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea submitted a number of bids for the England centre-half before the close of the transfer window and the 21-year-old even submitted a transfer request in the hope of making the deal happen.
However, Everton refused to sell, meaning Stones will now line up against Jose Mourinho’s men in Saturday’s Premier League clash at Goodison Park.
Martinez, though, has explained on the eve of the game that his principal objection to the proposed transfer was the fact that he would not have had sufficient time to find a replacement.
“You make a decision based on, ‘What do we need now? Can you replace a player now? Can we get a stronger squad by losing a player now?’,” he told reporters on Friday.
“The decision, clearly, now is John is in a perfect position to be important for how we want to play. We have very young players ready to kick on, like Ross Barkley, Romelu Lukaku and John Stones and it was about keeping that core.
“There are right times and wrong times to lose players and at this moment John Stones is paramount in everything we do.
“All I am interested in is what Everton needs in this campaign. From that point on, we will need to make another decision on what we need to be better going into next season. It goes project to project.
“We will decide next summer what’s best. You go from window to window and you say, ‘Okay, will we finish as a stronger squad?’ You assess. Players have moments of form, you look at ages.
“If we’d lost Stones at that stage it would have been impossible for us to bring in a player of the same level.
“I’ve said before that every football club is bigger than any player, but there is always a right moment and a wrong moment.”
Martinez added that he was delighted that the club fully supported his stance on Stones, whom he believes is capable of becoming an all-time great.
“I’m going to be biased but I see John Stones as potentially the best centre-back that England has ever produced,” the Spaniard stated.
“I haven’t seen another English player who’s got that ability to start play in that manner – he can be left one against one, he’s very good in the air, he reads the game fantastically well.”
When asked if Barcelona could thus end up rivalling Chelsea for Stones’ signature next season, Martinez quipped: “It’s Everton in the Champions League. That’s his next step.”