‘Stones should stay, even if Man City sign Koulibaly’ – Lescott urges ‘England’s best ball-playing defender’ to keep faith
John Stones should stick around at Manchester City even if Pep Guardiola brings in Kalidou Koulibaly from Napoli, claims Joleon Lescott, with an out-of-sorts centre-half told he remains “England’s best ball-playing defender”.
City invested £47.5 million ($61m) in Stones when snapping him up from Everton in 2016, but have seen him fail to make the intended progress while at the Etihad Stadium, with mistakes still made far too frequently.
It has been suggested that he could be offloaded in the current transfer window, with Guardiola chasing down other defensive options, but Lescott feels a talented 26-year-old should keep the faith.
The former City and England star told BBC Sport: “John Stones' career is at a crossroads but my advice to him would be to stay at Manchester City and fight for his place.
“This is a huge season for him, especially with the European Championship next summer, but I think the next few months could see him revive his career at Etihad Stadium and blossom with City.
“If he does that, England would take care of itself.
“Of course there is work to do - Stones is no longer first choice for club or country and has only featured in four of Gareth Southgate's past six squads - but he is still only 26 and I am a firm believer that centre-halves get better with age. I know I did.
“Looking at the past couple of years, injuries have held Stones back and he has suffered from a loss of form and maybe confidence too. Put together, that has seen him drop down the pecking order at City.
“But I just look at the players he is competing with for a place in Pep Guardiola's side and think his situation could change very quickly. His quality, and what he brings to the team when he is at his best, is not in doubt.”
Lescott added: “If Stones is picked on Monday against Wolves, it won't be with Aymeric Laporte alongside him because the Frenchman in not fully fit after a positive coronavirus test. That would have been the ideal scenario for Stones to come back to. I think the ambition for a long time was for those two to form a strong and regular partnership, and it still could be even now Nathan Ake has joined.
“It is different now Laporte is back in the picture. Once he is back, it will be whoever plays well with him that decides who gets the other slot, and we have seen before that Stones can do that.
“Then you consider Eric Garcia and Nicolas Otamendi's futures are unclear, Fernandinho's best position is central midfield and I think Ake might play more games at left-back than people anticipate.
“So Stones' situation is not as bleak as it looks. Even if City get Kalidou Koulibaly from Napoli then the door would not be closed to him.
“You would not say no to Koulibaly but we don't know how he would fit into the Premier League, City's style of play or alongside Laporte. With an in-form Stones, all of that already works.”
Stones took in just 24 appearances across all competitions last season, including only 12 Premier League starts, but Lescott believes he can become a regular for club and country once more.
The former Three Lions defender said: “If he is even playing just 20 or 30 games for City this season, and he stays fit, then he will get in Gareth Southgate's squad next summer. I have absolutely no doubt about that.
“Yes, his rivals for an England place may play more games, but he is at an elite club and we are not talking about an average player either.
Source : goal.com
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