After last summer, when it seemed like the media were quite happy for Everton to keep our best players, we’re back to the norm of reading page after page of rumours linking our players away from Goodison Park.
There were murmurs last season about Manchester United wanting Seamus Coleman and James McCarthy, but there were no bids and neither club fed the media frenzy with any quotes. This summer is different, at least from the outside.
Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho is constantly being asked about his desire to sign John Stones, and he’s not shying away from the questions. Yesterday, he effectively labeled Everton a small club when he spoke about clubs other than Chelsea being prepared to develop young English players in the Premier League. And today the papers are filled with stories that Chelsea are getting ready to break the English transfer record for a defender by putting in a £31m bid – against Everton’s advice.
Roberto Martinez, by contrast, is keeping his distance from questions about Stones, and rightly so. Stones is Everton’s player, Martinez has already said that. Everton don’t want to sell Stones, and again, Martinez has already said that. Everton have told Chelsea not to come back with any more offers, although that titbit of information is from an un-named source, apparently.
There is no need for Martinez to keep repeating his stance. He has made his point, and he is determined to stick to it. Mourinho, on the other hand, seems desperate to keep the media talking about the potential move.
There is only one reason he wants to do that, and that is to unsettle the player, and to force his agent to push even harder for a transfer. And it will continue.
Mourinho isn’t interested in what football fans think of him regarding transfer dealings, he only cares about his trophy cabinet, which is already substantial. He wants to be judged on what his teams win – and rightly so – and so far nobody can deny he has an excellent record of winning trophies. He will continue to make difficult-to-interpret statements throughout the summer, complaining that other clubs don’t roll over and let him tickle their belly as he poaches their best players, complaining that clubs reject his derisory opening bids, and whinging about other managers wanting to build a team around their best players.
We’re in for a long summer. A long summer of photoshopped pictures of John Stones in a Chelsea shirt. A long summer of “exclusives” from the Daily Mail claiming that Chelsea are offering Stones a seventeen bedroomed Canary Wharf apartment with a helipad and a pool if he signs. And, more disappointingly, a long summer of Evertonians complaining that the club haven’t made a daily statement saying their players aren’t for sale, or putting mind-blowing valuations on a player’s head, or, worse, demanding Bill Kenwright be removed from the club for selling a player he hasn’t sold.
Stones has said he is happy at Everton already this summer. He has spoken about his long-term future at the club, and although it’s hard to tell with footballers thanks to their PR training, he seems like a genuine, down to earth lad who has good people around him. He’s not an 18 year old Wayne Rooney, surrounded by sharks only interested in “milking the cash cow from both ends” as a judge so succinctly put it.
Until that changes, Stones is Everton’s player. And there are no outward signs of that changing any time soon. Barring a Fabian Delph type u-turn, or an astronomical bid that would even make a Fleet Street editor blush when he heard it on Kenwright’s voicemail, Stones will remain Everton’s player.
As supporters, there isn’t a lot we can do except try to keep our heads and not believe everything we read. Or if we do, we have to try not to feed the type of “Everton fans react to John Stones farting in bed” stories that newspapers rely on from Twitter feeds and Facebook walls. We kept Leighton Baines at the club despite David Moyes’ best efforts, and we’ll keep John Stones here too.
Keep the Faith.