Everton manager Roberto Martinez hopes John Stones can retain his focus in the club’s Premier League opener against Watford amid constant links to Chelsea.
Jose Mourinho has made no secret of his desire to bring Stones to the Premier League champions as he seeks out a potential long-term successor to Chelsea captain John Terry.
Talk of a £30million-plus move has been raised, but Martinez has remained steadfast in his determination to keep the England international – signed from Barnsley in January 2013 – on Merseyside.
The 21-year-old emerged as first choice alongside Phil Jagielka in the heart of Martinez’s defence last season and the Spaniard will be keen to see Stones’ development continue apace.
But, when asked if Chelsea’s interest was affecting Stones, Martinez said: “Yes. That’s something that you hope you learn from, and become more mature. Those are good experiences.
“John is one of the outstanding young talents that we have in the squad, and you’re going to get that sort of attraction and interest from the outside.
“Everything has been handled in a good manner. It’s a positive when you have a young talent doing well in important roles. It makes a big difference.
“Every squad has good young talent. It’s a question of whether that talent have big roles in the team. As you’ve seen, young players such as Romelu Lukaku, Ross Barkley and John Stones have very important roles.
“Throughout the season, you’re going to get that interest, but all we are focused on is Watford. John is an Everton player and there’s nothing else to comment on.”
Stones is fit to feature against last season’s Championship runners-up, despite picking up an ankle knock in pre-season, but Martinez has concerns further up the pitch with Steven Pienaar, Aiden McGeady and Gerard Deulofeu struggling with hamstring injuries.
Watford’s XI is likely to be much-changed from the one that ended last season with a 1-1 draw at home to Sheffield Wednesday, with a new face in the dug-out leading them out.
Quique Sanchez Flores became Watford’s fifth different head coach in the space of a year when he was appointed in June, with promotion-winning boss Slavisa Jokanovic leaving the club after his contract expired.
Sanchez Flores could field no fewer than nine new players at Goodison Park, but recent arrival Miguel Britos cannot feature due to a ban for headbutting Juventus striker Alvaro Morata late last term in Serie A carrying over to his new club.
Former Atletico Madrid coach Sanchez Flores is encouraged by his side’s pre-season campaign despite defeats to Cardiff City and Sevilla.
“I have confidence in my players,” he said
“They are an amazing group and I am happy with their work and they will improve with time. It is important they try and give their best for the first match on Saturday.”
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