By Coral Barry
Barcelona have joined Manchester City and Manchester United in the race for Everton’s John Stones, according to a report.
The defender was the subject of big money bids from Chelsea last summer and his stock has risen again in the last year, with Barcelona and the Manchester clubs making him a top target this summer.
The Daily Mail claim that Everton have slapped a £45million price tag on their star centre-back and Barcelona are expected to be the first to make a formal offer.
Stones still has three years to run on his current contract and the Toffees are in a strong position to hold out for a massive fee.
The Catalan giants forked out over £15million for Valencia’s Jeremy Mathieu last summer, but are set to return to the market for another centre-back after being told their initial top target Marquinhos would be staying at Paris Saint-Germain.
Stones was a mainstay in the Everton side last season with 41 appearances in all competitions and missed just five games in the Toffees’ Premier League campaign through injury.
Barcelona are expected to make an opening bid of £25million for Stones’ services, but are aware the offer is likely to be rejected by Everton.
The 22-year-old is about to jet off with England to the European Championships in France and it is believed that the interest from the three big clubs could catch his eye.
Everton endured a bitterly disappointing season in which they finished 11th in the league despite a team laden down with talented players such Ross Barkley, Romelu Lukaku and Stones.
City have already spent a combined £135million on centre-backs since signing Vincent Kompany in 2009, but most recent expensive additions Nicolas Otamendi and Eliaquim Mangala have struggled to adapt to the English game.
The Citizens are believed to be ready to dip into the market yet again for a defender that can not only partner captain Kompany, but potentially take over the injury stricken player’s mantle.
United have also spent a colossal amount of money on new faces in recent times with Louis van Gaal spending around £200million in his three years at charge at Old Trafford, with just the FA Cup in May to show for those expenditures.
All three of the interested parties are hoping they can take advantage of the uncertainty and instability around Goodison Park after manager Roberto Martinez was sacked.