Everton and England defender John Stones has been signed up Manchester City for a record 47.5 Million pounds. Only second to David Luiz, Stones is now the second most expensive defender in football. When Manchester United signed Paul Pogba, the odds on Jose Mourinho’s team winning the league title increased; but was soon nullified by the sky blues eighth signing. Man City are now 2.5-1 odds for the Premier League 2016-17, while Man United are slightly behind at 3-1.
Here’s seven reasons why John Stones is a key component of Guardiola’s three-year project:
- Youth & long-term
Pep Guardiola prefers youth when it comes to moulding a world-beating tea
m. Jose Mourinho may have broken the bank for Paul Pogba and also gone for a 34-year-old Ibrahimovic (for me, the best transfer deal of the season). Pep meanwhile has only gone for long-term vision and youth. Nolito (29) is the only matured player he signed. Else Stones is expected to feel comfortable amidst Sane (20), a host of 19 year olds (Zinchenko, Moreno, Jesus), Gundogan (25) and last year’s signings Sterling(21) and De Bruyne (25). Hell, Stones could be one the leaders in short time. He could be the new John Terry in very short time.
2. The Boateng, Pique example
Long heralded as average defenders, Guardiola has shaped careers of young centre backs like Gerard Pique and Jerome Boateng to be amongst the very best in the world. By age of 24, both Pique and Boateng were considered the best centre backs in the game. John Stones career path is expected to follow that route. Guardiola had shifted Mascherano to a similar role too at Barcelona – a role which the Argentinian still plays more often, five years down, than not.
3. City needed a top quality ball playing center back
Guardiola’s teams, always high on possession, are better organized when he has ball playing centre backs. Pep prefers defenders who are very comfortable making the key first pass and Stones is exactly that. Stones’ average pass completion per game stands at 89 % – compare this to City’s current centre backs Mangala (88%), Otamendi (84%) and Kompany (83%). John’s tackling average of 1.4 per game is something Guardiola is more comfortable with than Otamendi’s 3 tackles per game, which at times borders on rashness.
4. John & Pep
There has been mutual admiration from both parties for sometime now. During City’s pre-season tour, Guardiola expressed continued interest in the young English defender. Stones for his part, post the signing, has expressed that he hopes Guardiola will make him the best defender in the world. He has show eagerness to adapt, learn and reshape his game from his new master.
5. English, handsome and white
The fact that Stones is English, white and handsome, makes him an instant poster boy with the public; high jersey sales guaranteed and as his performances roll, he should be all over pages modelling for products. Call me racist, but that’s the way the world goes. England are more discussed prior to continental tournaments or World Cups. A fair, handsome, English footballer will be infinitely more discussed, praised and put on a pedestal than a dark-skinned striker from Africa, even if he scores 15 league goals in a season.
6. Right place, right time
Stones had handed in a transfer request at beginning of the 2015-16 season, despite being part of an Evertonian team which had Lukaku, Baines, Deulofeu and Barkley. Chelsea had offered for Stones but things didn’t materialize for Everton off the field; and neither on it – as the Toffees finished a disappointing 11th and let in 55 league goals. John had to move out this summer window and in shape of Guardiola plus a new project starting afresh at Manchester City, this was right time for all parties involved.
7. Extremely confident and highly valued
Stones has an extremely cool head irrespective to the match situation. He had the nerve to gesture “calm down” to Everton fans towards end of an unexpected win over title chasing Tottenham in January, after dribbling out of his own area with the ball. At 19, he took a panenka in a preseason penalty shootout against Juventus.
Micheal Owen has said Stones is the only English player who can walk into and play for Barcelona. Over the last season, Gerard Pique and Rio Ferdinand had lavish words of praise for Stones as a player who ‘understands football’, ‘brings in something extra to the team’, ‘has personality enough that a team can be built around him’.
First Test: John Stones vs Sunderland
Man City got all three points vs David Moyes’s Sunderland, however their performance was patchy, uncomfortable at the back and evident with clear lack of penetration.
John Stones though would be one of the players who came out of match with positive signs. He had 91% pass completion rate, won 67% aerial duels, made five tackles and was extremely comfortable on the ball (even when the Black Cats were pressing high).
Considering he landed in the club barely five days ago amidst a rebuilding team and new manager, these are good numbers.
Here’s wishing the very best to John Stones, Pep Guardiola and Manchester City. A team for whom i had travelled half the world to see them play!
Ps: This post has also been published on Sportskeeda.com