Former England manager Glenn Hoddle has branded Everton’s John Stones as the ‘most exciting central defender’ produced on English shores since Rio Ferdinand.
The 21-year-old was recently the subject of more than one transfer bid from Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea, the most recent of which was said to be worth around £40 million.
However, Everton refused to be bullied into selling their prized asset, rejecting all of the Blues’ advances in the recent transfer window.
Stones played the full 90 minutes in England’s 6-0 victory over San Marino on Saturday and Hoddle would like to see the defender play a more prominent role in England’s build-up play.
“He still has a lot to prove but John Stones is the most exciting central defender since Rio Ferdinand came on the scene,” Hoddle said in his column for Mail on Sunday.
“I gave Rio his England debut in 1997 and I remember how exciting his potential was. I had a plan to use him in a back three and I do regret that I never had the chance to see whether he could play that role where he could bring the ball out more and add some flexibility to England’s build-up.
“You see the same attributes in Stones: comfort on the ball, the desire to come out and to contribute to the build-up. In my playing career, no one was better at keeping cool under pressure than Alan Hansen.
“And in John I can see hints of Hansen. Now the important thing is that we nurture those talents and don’t hold him back or stifle his spirit. The danger is that his instincts are suppressed and he turns into a more traditional kind of centre-half.
“At international level, opponents know exactly how to play against England. They will allow our centre-halves plenty of time in possession, confident their distribution won’t be good enough.
“Italy and Uruguay did that in the World Cup, snuffing out Steven Gerrard and allowing Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka to have the ball.
“That’s why Stones could be so important. If you have a defender who can make a contribution to the build-up by playing balls that hurt the opposition, it stops them from taking that easy option.”