Everton had already told Chelsea John Stones was off-limits before £20m bid
Everton issued a written response to Chelsea to rule out the sale of John Stones, days before Jose Mourinho’s £20 million bid for the England defender was made public.
Mourinho suggested at the weekend that the Premier League champions had not been discouraged from returning with an improved offer for Stones.
But this view is contradicted by the timing and unambiguous tone of Everton’s reaction to the Chelsea bid, which was made early last week.
Everton wrote to Chelsea to reject the proposal and make clear that they had no intention of selling Stones. As far as Everton are concerned, their position could not have been clearer to Mourinho and the Chelsea board, which explains why Roberto Martinez, the Goodison manager, has responded so angrily to the public revelation of the offer in the past few days.
There is bewilderment at the Chelsea manager’s interpretation of the sequence of events, which evidently misreads Everton’s stance. Mourinho mischievously kept the door open for another Chelsea offer with his weekend comments.
“I would advise Roberto to do the same thing as I do. If I get an offer for one of my players and I don’t want to accept any offer I say I don’t accept any offer, so he can make it very, very easy,” Mourinho said.
“If today I receive a bid for [Cesc] Fabregas in two minutes I will say I don’t accept any bid, game over, that’s it. If we made a bid it is because we like the player, we don’t make bids for players we don’t like, but we respect Everton and respect every club that has a player and it is up to them – everything is in their hands.”
Given Everton’s written response, it seems that either Mourinho was not informed of the letter by his executives, or he has misunderstood it. Martinez and Everton naturally hoped Chelsea’s offer would remain private, so they are cynical regarding the motivation behind letting a rejected bid enter the public domain several days after it was turned down.
There is concern that Stones has been unsettled by Chelsea’s interest, a point Martinez made while in Singapore competing for the Asia trophy. Everton know Chelsea are likely to return with an improved offer – Stones’s value would make him the most expensive England defender in history if bids of more than £30 million materialise – but the Merseyside club are adamant that he will not leave for any price in this transfer window.
Their anger with Chelsea will serve only to strengthen their resolve. There is no financial compulsion for Everton to sell, while the sporting reasons will make Martinez even more determined to fight his corner. Even if he received a record fee for Stones, he would find it almost impossible to replace a player of such calibre in the next few weeks, leaving him short before the start of the Premier League season.
Whatever Chelsea offer, Martinez wants the player, not a large cheque to reinvest. He has been trying to find a centre-half to cover and complement Stones and his captain, Phil Jagielka, so the prospect of having to buy two centre-halves in a month is unpalatable.
Martinez’s anger was apparent on Saturday. “There is the disappointment of a club making a statement to the press and making it openly. I don’t think we’d do it and speak about a player. John Stones is an Everton player, full stop.”