Monday 22 July 2019

Lukaku urges Stones to stay put

Chelsea have been chasing John Stones all summer
Chelsea have been chasing John Stones all summer

Romelu Lukaku has urged team-mate John Stones to stay with him in what is a "good situation" at Everton rather than join the striker's former club Chelsea.

Lukaku, 22, left Stamford Bridge permanently last summer after finding regular football hard to come by.

The Belgium international, who had loan spells from Chelsea with the Toffees and West Brom before that, feels 21-year-old England defender Stones is at the right club to nurture his development.

''To be fair John is in a good situation at a good club which believes in him,'' Lukaku told several national newspapers.

''He is playing and is learning a lot from (defender) Phil Jagielka. He's been here two years now but this is the year where he really needs to confirm he is the top player he can be.

''This club has massive potential, with the players we have and the ambition the manager has. He is in a good place. He's on to a good thing.''

Stones has been the subject of interest from Chelsea throughout the summer, with Everton rejecting big-money bids and repeatedly saying the player is not for sale.

Despite the saga, Stones has played both games of the Toffees' 2015/16 Barclays Premier League campaign so far, impressing as they drew 2-2 at home with Watford before stunning Southampton 3-0 at St Mary's last week.

It was reported on Friday that Stones is close to putting in a transfer request, but Everton manager Roberto Martinez said he was not aware of that and that it would not change the club's stance if he did.

Lukaku feels Everton have collected a strong core of young talent that can only get better if they stick together.

''We are young, but we have a lot of potential,'' Lukaku - scorer of a brace against Southampton - added.

''We had a great first year when I came here. Last year we had a very hard year, a very, very tough year (when Everton finished 11th in the Premier League, 12 months on from coming fifth).

''But we'll learn from it. He's (Stones) in a good situation. He needs to keep on doing what he's doing. He has the Euros (Euro 2016) coming up, so why go?''

Lukaku was speaking ahead of Everton's home league clash with Manchester City on Sunday.

City have looked formidable so far this term in 3-0 victories at West Brom and at the Etihad Stadium against champions Chelsea last weekend.

But Toffees forward Steven Naismith has stressed Everton are in fearless mood given both the Southampton game and their notable efforts against the Premier League's big hitters over the last few years.

"Confidence is really high with the performance against Southampton, and one of the biggest positives from that was the clean sheet," Naismith - who scored in Everton's 1-1 draw with City at Goodison Park last season - told Press Association Sport.

"We can build on that, and we have done well in the last few seasons not only against Man City but a lot of the top teams.

"We have shown we can compete with them and challenge them, so it will be more of the same. That is the mindset we have. We believe we can and we are confident enough to get results against the big teams."

Martinez has emphasised he will not hesitate to pick Stones for the City game despite the ongoing transfer speculation.

:: For a second year, Steven Naismith is donating tickets for Everton home matches to unemployed football fans throughout the season in an initiative with Jobcentreplus centres across Liverpool.

PA Media

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