Belfast Telegraph

Everton determined to keep 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 told Sky Sports News.

"Everton is a fantastic club for him and they have shown in the past, even with the core group of youngsters that we have at the moment, that there is so much talent here.

"He is learning so fast and, in such a short period of time, he has come from a Barnsley team in the middle of the Championship to playing week in, week out for Everton.

"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.

But he has been less than impressed with the way news of Chelsea's attempts to lure the youngster away have materialised.

After the first bid was made earlier this month the Spaniard spoke of his "disappointment of seeing a football club leaking such statements to the press and making it so open".

"That is not the way we would do it at Everton, we would not speak of a player who is registered at another club and there is no issue from our point of view - John Stones is an Everton player," he said at the time.

"We are not a selling club. We are not a club that needs to be worried about what other clubs put through the press."

Martinez, meanwhile, has played down injury concerns over Romelu Lukaku after the striker came off early in their latest pre-season friendly.

The Belgium international managed 32 minutes in the 2-0 win over Dundee before coming off appearing to hold his hamstring.

However, Martinez insists the 22-year-old's withdrawal was just precautionary.

"Rom has obviously been playing a lot of minutes and it was important for him to get some sort of action," he told evertontv.

"After the first 25 minutes, he was feeling his legs were a little bit too heavy and we didn't want to take any risks.

"It's not a problem at all. I think he got a lot of good work between the two games we've had up here, plus the games we had in Singapore.

"Now we have got a little period before the weekend to make sure he is ready and refreshed."


From Belfast Telegraph