The protracted transfer saga surrounding John Stones has finally ended, with Manchester City getting their man after agreeing a fee in the region of £50million with Everton.
Stones, who becomes the most expensive English defender in history, has long been earmarked as a cultured centre-half around whom Pep Guardiola is eager to build his back line, especially given captain Vincent Kompany’s injury woes.
But is the former Barnsley trainee worth such a staggering price? With the help of Opta, we look at what made City fork out a fortune, and how he compares to the world’s finest in his position.
A PASSING FANCY
Marc Bartra, who made his Barcelona debut under Guardiola, spoke recently about the importance the coach places on defenders being good on the ball.
Stones, it would seem, is the perfect fit for a possession game at City. Last season, he boasted an 88.7 per cent passing success rate – the best of any defender to play 25 games or more in the Premier League.
That figure also places him top of the tree at Everton. Of players who made more than one appearance last term, only James McCarthy (87 per cent) comes close.
What’s more, Stones’ passing accuracy also betters that of Jerome Boateng (86.45 per cent), the man Guardiola turned to at Bayern Munich to kick-start attacking moves with passes into midfield or long balls up to the attacking third. Bayern’s new signing, Mats Hummels, was further back on 86.29 per cent.
Eliaquim Mangala, at 87.44 per cent, had the best rate of City’s defenders last season.
Despite a proclivity to stay upright with the ball at his feet, Stones is not averse to throwing himself into the fray when the situation calls for it.
In last season’s Premier League, only six players made more blocks than the 33 Stones managed, with Crystal Palace’s Scott Dann leading the way on 43.
Stones is happy enough to mix it with the best in the air, too. He won 53 aerial challenges in the top flight last term, more than Leonardo Bonucci – himself linked with City over this close season – Boateng or Giorgio Chiellini managed in their respective leagues.
CONSISTENCY ON THE ROCKS
Stones has impressed in the past two years despite playing in an Everton defence that has been maligned for its instability.
He is not, however, exempt from blame. Last term, he made three mistakes leading directly to a goal in the Premier League – a tally matched by former team-mate Phil Jagielka, West Ham’s Aaron Cresswell and Southampton’s Maya Yoshida. No player made more.
BETTER THAN BONUCCI?
Stones’ arrival would suggest Guardiola accepted defeat in his reported pursuit of Juventus stalwart Bonucci – a centre-back the Catalan famously described as “one of my favourite ever players” after Bayern Munich played Serie A’s dominant force in the Champions League last season.
The youngster has the edge in passing stats from league football last season, his 88.7 per cent rate just beating Bonucci’s 86.98. He also won more aerials (53, compared to 48) and more tackles (46 to 39) than the Italy international.
However, Bonucci’s 147 clearances comfortably beats Stones’ tally of 127, while his 82 interceptions dwarf the England man’s 56.
MIXING IT WITH THE BEST
Stones, on the whole, measures up well with some of the world’s best in his position.
Last season, he made more tackles than Gerard Pique, more clearances than Chiellini, intercepted more balls than Pepe and completed more passes than Sergio Ramos, though his average success rate was lower than the Real Madrid man’s 90.35 per cent.
Indeed, his tackling proved to be better than the majority of the top centre-backs in Europe. Only Mats Hummels (61) Paris Saint-Germain captain Thiago Silva (52) managed more from the players listed here.
One man stands a cut above the rest from Europe’s top sides, however. Thiago Silva won more aerials (73), made more interceptions (93) and had a better pass completion rate (94.63 per cent) than any other centre-back named here.