By Alex Taylor
£50m Manchester City target John Stones played for Everton against Dynamo Dresden on Friday evening, despite heavy speculation that the 22-year-old will leave the Toffees this summer.
The decision to play Stones comes just days after City boss Pep Guardiola confirmed that he is interested in bringing the youngster to the Etihad before the start of the 2016-17 Premier League season.
Stones had a solid first half for Everton and certainly didn’t look like a man going through his paces, as The Daily Mail reported that his transfer had reached a stalemate with Manchester City still not formally offering the full £50m.
Fans on the social media site didn’t hold back when sharing their views.
John Stones starts for EFC and so he should do.
Regardless of speculation, he has to start.
— Tony Scott (@Tony_Scott11) July 29, 2016
Interesting decision to start John Stones..is it out of necessity or a tactic in negotiations with City? #EFC
— Greg O’Keeffe (@GregOK) July 29, 2016
Nice to see that Man City have allowed Everton to start Everton’s John Stones in this friendly.
— Sticky Toffee (@BlueandWhyte) July 29, 2016
Evertons John Stones plays for Everton in friendly against Dynamo Dresden
— EFC 4 LIFE (@evertonfc78nsno) 29 July 2016
BREAKING: John Stones starts for Everton, the team hes contracted to, for tonight’s friendly V Dynamo Dresden @DailyMailUK
— Laurance Howarth (@scousebluenos3) 29 July 2016
Stones has started excellently. Funes Mori less sohttps://t.co/kxSDg2wGH1
— Phil Kirkbride (@philkecho) July 29, 2016
— Everton FC News (@LivEchoEFC) July 29, 2016
This John stones lad we’ve loaned from man city doesn’t look too bad so far tonight does he
— Liam (@LiamAbbott_) July 29, 2016
The Daily Mail claimed that the Toffees rejected a £40million move for their prize defender earlier this month as Everton hold out for a fee of £50million.
The highest sum the Toffees have received for a player was £27million when Maroanne Fellaini joined Manchester United in 2013, while their record outlay is the £28million spent to entice Romelu Lukaku from Chelsea 12 months later.
Chelsea made three bids for Stones last summer of up to £35million, but new City boss Guardiola has earmarked the youngster as a key part of his revolution and is willing to meet the Goodison Park club’s demands.
The 22-year-old still has three years left on his current deal after joining from Barnsley in the 2013 January transfer window for £2million.
Toffees fans will hope Everton move to sign a replacement if he does go, as it would leave just two experienced central defenders at the club, Phil Jagielka and Ramiro Funes Mori.
In other Everton transfer news, the Toffees are on the verge of signing Aston Villa midfielder Idrissa Gueye.