£62.5million. That’s the total combined fee that we got for John Stones and Ross Barkley. And after their horror-show performances against the Netherlands in the UEFA Nations League, Everton fans are laughing all the way to the bank.
The pair were at fault for Ronald Koeman’s side’s two goals in extra-time that consigned England to a 3-1 defeat and an exit from the Semi-Finals of the competition. But the nature of the mistakes is what will give Everton’s decision to sell them a great sense of vindication.
When Stones received the ball midway through the first-half of extra-time, there appeared to be no pressure around him. The centre-back, however, decided to inexplicably dawdle on the ball, turn back towards his own goal and promptly got dispossessed by Memphis Depay; a man not really known for his Carlos Tevez-esque work off the ball. The end result? The ball in the back of the England net.
And then inexplicably, with England chasing an equaliser, Gareth Southgate’s side were again caught out by some dilly-dallying on the edge of the Three Lions’ penalty area. Refusing to recognise the danger and clear it out, Stones this time attempted to play a suicide pass into Barkley’s feet, with the midfielder trying to play it back to Jordan Pickford first time. The end result? The ball in the back of the England net, again.
When Stones, in particular, was emerging at Goodison Park, his ball-playing abilities were rightly lauded. They were a breath of fresh air from the old-school lump it mentality, and the fans loved it. But the defender seemed to take to it a little too much, getting into self-created trouble on several occasions and refusing to acknowledge that he needed to strike a balance to his game.
It was why, when the Toffees announced that Pep Guardiola and Manchester City were prepared to pay close to £50m for him, very few supporters seemed to shed a tear. Stones was an accident waiting to happen.
Indeed, his former Everton teammate Barkley hardly covered himself in glory either on Thursday. The midfielder was on the periphery of the game, and again showed a lack of maturity by failing to appreciate that he had a man closing him down. So once again, when another big-six Premier League side offered to take him off our hands, the reaction was very much muted.
The harsh reality of the situation is that neither have really kicked on at either the Etihad Stadium or Stamford Bridge. They may have left for trophy-winning clubs, but they’ve yet to truly leave their Goodison Park flaws behind. Which is why getting £62.5m for the pair seems like an absolute heist.