Everton have been warned that John Stones' move to a big club is inevitable. This comes against a backdrop of continued speculation linking the player with Chelsea.
The Daily Mail has reported that the Blues are contemplating a second bid for the England international, after seeing a £25m ($39.1m) opening offer rejected by the Toffees. And having seen Stones develop into one of the most exciting young players in the Premier League, former Everton teammate Sylvain Distin says a move to a club like Chelsea is on the horizon.
"He's young, English, full of qualities and a good guy as well," Distin, who has just signed for Premier League new boys Bournemouth, told Sky Sports News HQ. "I've often said it's not enough to have quality on the pitch. Off the pitch you need to be grounded and a good person – and he is.
"So it's not surprising a big club has come in for him. It is a compliment and if he carries on the way he has started and keeps working, he'll end up at a big club, that's for sure."
Chelsea have refused to confirm if they will continue their pursuit of Stones, however the club are set to the start the season with just three centre-backs. John Terry, Gary Cahill and Kurt Zouma go into the campaign as Chelsea's only senior players in that role and former striker Tony Cascarino expects the club to be "aggressive" in their attempts to sign Stones.
"They're already bid £20m, so they know they'll probably have to bid closer to £30m to get him," he told Talksport. "I expect Chelsea to be aggressive again before the end of the window and try to turn John Stones' head.
"He's the best young centre-half out there, he's very gifted on the ball and I think Jose Mourinho knows that John Stones is the player he absolutely must get. With John Terry, you're always thinking, 'can he do another season?', and I have no doubt he'll play as well as he did last year this season.
"But Chelsea always try and buy players at the right time, it's Jose's way of doing business, and I think Stones is the boy they will hunt down. It will be very difficult for Everton to be able to keep him."