Manchester City have opened discussions with Everton over signing England defender John Stones, according to reports.
City are currently in China on their pre-season tour but continue to be linked with a series of big-money transfers, with the Toffees centre-half said to be top of their list.
Leonardo Bonucci, Leroy Sane, Gabriel Jesus and Marlos Moreno were all said to be City targets on Wednesday, but various reports suggested they are closer to bringing in Stones.
Stones, 22, has previously been coveted by Chelsea but new City boss Pep Guardiola is giving close attention to his back four given Vincent Kompany’s injury record and uncertainty over Eliaquim Mangala’s future.
Everton would value Stones at up to £50million in the current climate, with fees significantly inflated since last summer when he was rated at £40millon.
Everton were unavailable for a response when contacted on Wednesday night, though Guardiola had talked about his defence at a press conference in Shenzhen earlier in the day.
While Stones was not mentioned by name, Guardiola described his preferred centre-half as one who could bring the ball out from the back before making a transparent reference to the transfer window.
“We need to create good build-up play, with easy passes in midfield, to achieve good passes for our strikers further up the pitch,” he said.
“I believe when the ball goes from a central defender to a striker, the ball comes back as quickly as it goes, and we have to make it clear that we are building up in our first process, whether that is defenders or midfielders.
“By August 31, we will have the right players to play the way we want.”
Kompany is set to sit out the start of the season with a thigh complaint, leaving City on the look-out for a replacement skipper.
And Guardiola is happy to leave that decision to the dressing room, having yet to make his own appraisal of who should lead the side at the start of the campaign.
“Vincent is the captain, and when he’s not playing, the players have to choose,” he said.
“They have to decide who the real captain is for them. I have never believed I should pick the captain, because I am not in the locker room, not in the dressing room, I’m not in the meetings when they believe they have to change something.”
Guardiola also stressed his hardline approach to fitness and conditioning following left-back Gael Clichy’s claims that he had banned pizza and banished individuals from first-team training for not hitting their weight targets.
“Normally I’m not a guy to say ‘you can’t eat that’, I don’t know what they eat normally. They eat what the nutritionist decides,” said Guardiola.
“They were not overweight (at the start of pre-season), but I want my players fit. For me, weight is so, so important.
“When you are not fit and your weight is not proper, danger is coming. That’s why I want my players absolutely fit.”