Stones can be City’s rock
John Stones joined Manchester City three years ago today but he is yet to establish himself as a key figure in the heart of their defence.
The Barnsley-born lad was regarded as England’s brightest defensive prospect when he left Everton for City in a £47.5million deal on August 9 2016.
After coming through the Tykes’ academy he went on to make 28 senior appearances across all competitions before being snapped up by the Toffees.
He earned a reputation for being technically gifted on the ball and his ability to play out from the back aligned perfectly with Roberto Martinez’s philosophy at Goodison Park.
At just £3million, Everton had unearthed a star of the future and he was nominated for the Golden Boy Award in 2014.
However, injuries were already starting to take their toll on Stones and he was restricted to just 44 league appearances in his first two seasons at the club.
Stones did manage to stay clear of the treatment table for the most part of 2015-16 and his performances caught the eye of Pep Guardiola.
The Spaniard has a fantastic eye for players that will be comfortable playing in his very-defined style and he felt the Yorkshireman was capable of getting to grips with his ideology.
Vincent Kompany and Nicolas Otamendi were the two senior central defenders already at the Etihad and Stones faced a challenge in trying to dislodge either of that pair.
Fortunately for him, Kompany had injury issues and he went on to make 27 appearances as City finished third in the Premier League.
The 25-year-old had the opportunity to try and tie down a spot long-term with Otamendi looking erratic but he was hit by hamstring and groin problems in 2017-18.
Groin injuries continued to plague Stones last season and he amassed just 24 league appearances in City’s second successive title-winning campaign.
The England international did play a key part in their title success after clearing off the line to deny Liverpool a goal in the Citizen’s 2-1 win at the Etihad.
#OnThisDay we signed John Stones 📝
The perfect excuse to post THAT clearance again 😏
— Manchester City (@ManCity) August 9, 2019
It proved to be a key moment in the title race and allowed Kompany the chance to lift the title before announcing his departure from the club.
Kompany’s exit has left a big hole to be filled in the heart of defence and Guardiola is yet to confirm who he will favour to partner Aymeric Laporte.
The Bilbao man is almost certain to start every game if fit but Otamendi and Stones will need to stake a claim to play alongside him.
Otamendi and Stones started for City in the Community Shield last weekend in the absence of Laporte and the latter looked refreshed and raring to go.
With the European Championships to come next summer, Stones could even secure a starting XI role with England if he manages to stay fit for the entire campaign.
Undoubtedly, he has the talent to be Guardiola’s golden boy but it all comes down to whether he has the drive and desire to become the best version of himself as others have done at City.