Thursday 29 September 2016

John Stones listed in Man City's Champions League squad despite still being at Everton

Published 09/08/2016 | 10:01

Manchester City are desperate to sign Everton's John Stones
Manchester City are desperate to sign Everton's John Stones

John Stones has been included in Manchester City's Champions League squad on Uefa's official website, even though the England defender has yet to complete a move to the club from Everton.

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City have been chasing Stones all summer but have been unwilling to meet Everton's £50 million valuation after having a bid of around £40 million rejected last month. 

But in an embarrassing turn of events, Stones has been allocated the shirt No. 24 and included in City's Champions League squad ahead of the forthcoming play-off tie against Steaua Bucharest, the first leg of which is in the Romanian capital a week on Tuesday, despite neither club announcing a deal yet.

Previously City told Everton to take or leave their £40 million offer for Stones, with the Manchester club refusing to be held to ransom for the England defender.

Everton rejected a £40 million bid for Stones in July but the Manchester club are adamant they will not meet the Merseysiders’ £50 million valuation of the 22-year-old, which would mean him eclipsing Raheem Sterling as the most expensive English footballer in history.

Any deal over the £42 million that City paid Porto for France centre-half Eliaquim Mangala two years ago would make Stones the world’s most expensive defender, a scenario they want to avoid.

City believe their offer for Stones is very fair for a player who has made less than 100 appearances for Everton and is coming off the back of a difficult season. Striker Wilfried Bony is thought to have been offered as a makeweight but Everton would prefer a straight cash deal.

Stones has told Everton of his desire to play for Guardiola at City and the defender’s eagerness to move could ultimately prove the deciding factor, with new Everton manager Ronald Koeman unlikely to want to keep an unhappy player when the money could be reinvested elsewhere.

If City get Stones, they may decide not to move for Leonardo Bonucci, even though Guardiola admires the Juventus and Italy centre-half.

Guardiola is confident he can turn Stones – who cost Everton £3 million from Barnsley in 2013 – into a world-class centre-half but he supports the club’s position and has already expressed bewilderment at the “crazy” prices being asked for English players.

Sterling endured a difficult debut season at the Etihad Stadium in the wake of his protracted £49 million move from Liverpool last summer and Guardiola faces a battle to repair the confidence of a player whose form faltered under the pressure of a huge price tag.

Nonetheless, City adopted a similar hardline stance over Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne last summer only to eventually meet respectively Liverpool and Wolfsburg’s asking prices. It remains to be seen if they hold firm with Everton, who are notoriously tough negotiators in the transfer market.

Bill Kenwright, the Everton chairman, has a strong track record of getting the highest prices for his players and rejected four bids from Chelsea for Stones last summer when the west London club failed to meet their then £40 million valuation.

City also have direct experience of the difficulties of negotiating with Everton. In 2009, they ended up paying £24 million for defender Joleon Lescott, a huge sum at the time. They did turn their sights elsewhere, though, after balking at Everton’s £50 million asking price for England midfielder Ross Barkley two summers ago.

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