Rock solid: Stones is set to partner Phil Jones in centre England defence

By Spain correspondent Miguel de Souza

Barcelona are making regular scouting assessments of John Stones as they step up their bid to sign the Everton defender, Football Insider sources understand.

The Spanish champions have been monitoring Stones’s progress since last season and sporting director Roberto Fernandez has received glowing reports from the club’s English scouts.

The 21-year-old has taken his game to a new level this season following a difficult summer when Everton refused to sell to Chelsea despite a string of offers up to £35million and the player submitted a transfer request.

As revealed by Football Insider in November, Manchester United are also closely monitoring Stones, while there is interest from Manchester City and Real Madrid.

Everton insist Stones will not be sold this month and the club intend to offer the centre-back a new contract.

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His current deal expires in 2019 and the Merseysiders want to tie him to a new agreement that runs until at least 2021.

Manager Roberto Martinez justified the decision to keep Stones this week by saying that the player has benefitted further from playing regularly in Everton’s first team.

The club’s Spanish manager is aware of the interest from Barcelona, who would like to pair Stones with Gerard Pique at the heart of their defence.