John Stones
John Stones is one of the Premier League's most in-demand players Getty Images

Real Madrid have joined Manchester United and Chelsea in the race for Everton defender John Stones, with new manager Zinedine Zidane apparently a huge fan of the England international. Stones has been a regular feature for the Everton first team in over the past two years and has caught the eye of managers across the world, who are conversant with his domineering presence in the box.

The Daily Mail reports that Madrid will make a move for the player in January, but should a deal fail to materialise, they are expected to extend their search into the summer, where they are more likely to strike a chord with Everton for the defender. United manager Louis van Gaal is also a huge fan and has been linked with the player last summer, but did not come up with a sizeable bid for his transfer.

Chelsea, under Jose Mourinho, had put in three bids for the 21-year-old, but were pegged back in each by Roberto Martinez, who had publicly stated that Stones had the potential to move to the greatest clubs in the world, including those in Madrid and Barcelona. The Catalans have also expressed an interest in the player but do not have the funds to complete a transfer, having registered 77 players in January, following the withdrawal of their transfer ban.

The defender is expected to be available for a fee in the range of £40m ($59m), which Madrid are more than capable of paying. Everton would prefer a move abroad for the England international, as they do not want to strengthen any of their other top four challengers in the league, given how close the teams are this season, following an increase in revenue for the ostensibly lower clubs.

Real, should they be interested, have to act quickly as they have a potential ban circling over them, for their role in signing Under-18s, in dereliction of Article 19 of Fifa's transfer rule. However, the management is confident they can appeal the judgement and get themselves at least another window to stock on their transfer requirements.