Roberto Martinez has suggested Everton defender John Stones did not personally want to lodge the transfer request that the Toffees rejected.
England international Stones is understood to have been the subject of four bids by Premier League champions Chelsea during this window, yet Everton have remained resolute in their desire to keep the 21-year-old at Goodison Park.
That stance was not even altered when Stones formally asked for a move to be granted – a request his chairman Bill Kenwright publicly rejected on Thursday – and Martinez selected him in his back four for the stalemate with Tottenham on Saturday.
Martinez has praised Stones’ attitude in dealing with this saga throughout and hinted the decision to hand in a transfer request was not the defender’s choice.
“He’s such a professional,” the Everton boss said. “I had other situations where I had players who couldn’t cope and couldn’t play. I had windows where I had to leave players out completely and when the window closed get him back in the team and what that represents – winning his team-mates over and the fans over.
“With John, it’s very easy because he’s a pristine professional. Obviously he’s been put under massive, massive pressure. The transfer request was something he didn’t mean to do.”
Asked if Stones had expressed regret to him over the transfer request, Martinez added: “No, no, no. We haven’t spoken about that. All we’ve been speaking about is the game and what we need to do. He’s been a leader in that.
“(On Saturday) you saw a 21-year-old deal with that pressure and he played in that manner. For me, it shows he has potential to be England captain.”
Stones was heckled by some fans at Barnsley last week but enjoyed a much kinder reception when he went over to greet the travelling contingent at the end of the game at White Hart Lane.
Martinez is confident any animosity held towards his centre-back is now water under the bridge.
“He knows the fans will be with him, he knows the fans will understand what’s happened,” Martinez said. “The way he has always been performing – he’s always been a top professional, never letting the team down or the football club down. He is a true Evertonian.”
Stones was part of a rearguard action that frustrated Mauricio Pochettino’s Spurs in north London, with goalkeeper Tim Howard earning the man-of-the-match accolade for a string of saves that frustrated Harry Kane and his colleagues.
It left Tottenham still seeking their first victory of the new campaign as they enter the international break, not that Pochettino is overly concerned by the manner of their performances.
“We created the better chances and their goalkeeper was the man of the match; this is football,” argued Pochettino. “If you analyse it, we created clear chances to score. It is not about intensity, it is about being clinical in front of goal and it was unlucky and an unbelievable performance from Tim Howard.
“This is football, last season, before the first international break, we win two games but after we have a difficult period – maybe now is the difficult period.”