John Stones
John Stones in action against Manchester CityGetty Images

Manchester City are reportedly leading the race to sign Everton star John Stones. The 21-year-old defender is being closely watched by a number of Premier League, but the Mancunian Blues have apparently leapt to the front of the queue for the highly rated player.

Stones produced an underwhelming performance against City during the League Cup semifinal between Everton and City earlier in January. But that has not deterred the Manchester club from pursuing the defender.

The England international was the subject of numerous bids from reigning Premier League champions Chelsea during the summer transfer window. But according to The Mirror, the west London club's interest in the player has since cooled. What's more, Chelsea's struggles this season mean they are unlikely to be able to offer Stones Champions League football.

The Citizens have invested heavily in their backline in recent years, bringing in the likes of Nicolás Otamendi and Eliaquim Mangala. However, injuries continue to hamper captain Vincent Kompany and Stones is reportedly seen as an ideal signing for City.

Earlier in January, meanwhile, Everton boss Roberto Martinez was forced to deny rumours he had agreed to transfer Stones in the summer window. "That is not true," he said. "I would never do that. It would be very negative. If you do that could you imagine the last two months for that player? He would never put a leg in or never challenge for the ball."