England defender John Stones describes it as a weight off his shoulders to be enjoying his football at Manchester City after a breakdown of communication with Roberto Martinez marred his final season with Everton.
Stones joined City in a £47.5million deal over the summer, a huge sum that reflects the 22-year-old’s youth, potential and nationality but not necessarily his recent experiences.
He was part of an under-achieving Toffees side who finished 11th last year and were frequently accused on being defensively disorganised.
Martinez, who was sacked late in May before becoming Belgium boss, did not even consider Stones undroppable, sidelining him on several occasions during February and March.
Stones is clearly loving his early days at the Etihad Stadium, where he has been parachuted straight into Pep Guardiola’s first XI, but he acknowledges times got tough at the end of his spell at Goodison Park.
He stopped short of criticising Martinez directly but his dissatisfaction is palpable, particularly when discussing his time out of the side – and the apparent lack of explanation he received.
“Since last summer it has been a journey, I suppose… It’s a weight off my shoulders now that I know where I am, settled, and enjoying my football,” Stones said.
“Maybe things weren’t just working out (at Everton). It was a tough period because I was doing everything right, I was being professional, I was carrying myself well. I wanted to do everything right, try to get in the team how everyone should and fight for my place.
“I felt I was doing everything I could and deserved to play and still wasn’t. That’s when I found it hard. It’s probably a question you should have asked the manager at the time because he wasn’t telling me.
“Roberto had his style of play and kind of changed that towards the end of his career at Everton. He changed the whole style of the team and things weren’t working out at that time so you could say it wasn’t the best decision.
“As you know, the gaffer got sacked. It wasn’t enjoyable. We weren’t winning games. When we don’t do that a few games on the trot, it starts to eat away at you, no matter who you are. It was a good test for me. I learned a lot about my football, about myself.
“I felt it was right to move on to work under the best manager in my eyes.”