Everton still holding out as Chelsea bid for John Stones
Everton remain steadfast in their determination to reject Chelsea's advances for John Stones after reiterating the defender is not for sale.
Reports claim the Stamford Bridge club have had an improved bid in the region of £26million for the young England international turned down after previously failing almost a fortnight ago with an offer of £20million.
Everton manager Roberto Martinez criticised Chelsea for their handling of the situation but it is believed Blues boss Jose Mourinho remains confident of acquiring his target and another significantly larger bid is expected to be lodged.
Regardless, Press Association Sport understands Everton's stance has not altered as they insist the 21-year-old is not for sale and they will not countenance his departure.
The same applies to midfielder James McCarthy as speculation linking him with Tottenham increases.
McCarthy still has three years remaining on his contract and enjoys a close relationship with Martinez, who made it his priority to bring the Republic of Ireland international with him when he moved from Wigan two years ago.
Team-mate Steven Naismith believes Stones will benefit from remaining at Goodison Park to continue his rapid rise which has seen him go from playing SkyBet Championship football with Barnsley to a full senior England debut inside 18 months.
"There's no doubt about his quality and as a team-mate and as a friend he is a fantastic man and a great prospect," he said.
"Everton is a fantastic club for him and they have shown in the past, even with the core group of youngsters we have at the moment, there is so much talent here.
"There are not many young defenders that are as composed and read the game as well as he can.
"That's why Everton went out and bought him when it was just young potential and they are reaping the rewards at the moment."
Martinez, who is still looking for central defensive reinforcements, plans to play Stones alongside captain Phil Jagielka as his first-choice partnership.