Martin Keown raised his doubts over John Stones’ capabilities, questioning whether Manchester City’s new centre-back has the adequate mental and physical toughness to succeed at the highest level.
Former England international Keown stated every one of his countrymen should want Stones to do well at City following his £47.5million switch from Everton, but offered a damning assessment of his game and style of play in the Premier League.
“There are lessons to learn – I want to see him loving blocks, headers, tackles, covers and clearances into Row Z as much as he likes to drop his shoulder and glide out from the back,” Keown said in his column for the Daily Mail.
“He is still a baby. Like the goalkeeping position, central defenders get better with age. Often it is when they stop trying to do everything because they realise that, by doing less, they can be more effective for their team.
“People say we are looking at a modern-day Alan Hansen here, but I ask, can he carry his team into a battle, can he stop being bullied, does he have the steel?”
Stones’ big-money transfer from Everton is the second-highest for an Englishman, following Raheem Sterling’s £49m move to City last summer.
The 22-year-old Stones was selected for England’s Euro 2016 squad, but according to Keown, Roy Hodgson did not “trust” him enough to play ahead of Chris Smalling and Gary Cahill.
Justifying the price tag in the Premier League will prove challenging for Stones, and although Keown does admit he has found a manager who will appreciate his talent in Pep Guardiola, it should not be the primary aspect of his game.
“City spent £31.8m on Eliaquim Mangala, but that player does not make sense to Guardiola because he cannot play with the ball. Stones and Guardiola are potentially an ideal match,” he said.
“City need to fire him up and teach him to do the stuff that hurts, because that is what wins titles…City have signed him and paid this fee because Pep Guardiola recognises his elegance, but go and play in midfield if you cannot do the defensive work, too.”