European champions Barcelona have reportedly made Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey and Everton centre-back John Stones two of their main targets in the summer.
According to John Richardson of the Sunday Express, the La Liga giants are willing to part with a staggering £50 million to sign Ramsey, and a similar figure to lure Stones from Goodison Park to the Camp Nou.
After being banned from recruiting players for the previous two windows, Richardson claimed the Blaugrana “are determined to come back with a bang.”
“Both players couldn’t help but be tempted by moves to one of Europe’s glamour clubs, which will leave Arsenal and Everton with a fight to hold on to their brightest stars,” he wrote.
Ramsey would certainly be an intriguing proposition at the Camp Nou. For Arsenal he has proven himself as one of the top midfielders in the Premier League, excelling in roles through the middle, in a withdrawn position and most recently from the right flank.
He does possess attributes that are not overly prominent in the Barcelona midfield. Ramsey makes penetrating runs into the box, and while he may not be as intricate on the ball when compared to the likes of Andres Iniesta and Ivan Rakitic, he’s a player who has a sense for getting into goalscoring positions.
As noted by former Arsenal player Danny Karbassiyoon, the Welshman is always keen to put himself in dangerous areas:
Great team goal! Love it from Ramsey getting into those advanced areas! #AFC— Danny Karbassiyoon (@dkarbassiyoon) January 9, 2016
The Gunners will surely be keen to keep hold of their player, though, even if Barcelona do come calling. Everton, who are not Champions League regulars like Arsenal, may find their own asset more difficult to cling to.
Stones hasn’t been enjoying his best run of form recently, but his quality is undeniable. You can see why Barcelona would potentially be keen on bringing him in too, given his composure on the ball and ability to pick out a pass. He’d be ideal to play alongside Gerard Pique, slaloming out of defence to start attacks.
Former Barcelona and Everton man Gary Lineker was effusive in his praise of the 21-year-old last month:
What an absolute delight it is to watch an English central defender play in such a relaxed manner on the ball. John Stones is a class act.— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) December 26, 2015
Stones has a lot of developing to do before he can be considered a player good enough for the Blaugrana, though.
His defensive work has left a lot to be desired this term. He’s a clean tackler, but his ability in the air, sensing danger and appreciating the position of his centre-back partner are all flaws that have been exposed with Everton skipper Phil Jagielka out of the side. Stones is still young and will inevitably improve, though.
Former Everton player Anthony Gerrard thinks Stones and his Toffees team-mate Ross Barkley would both fit in nicely at the Camp Nou:
John Stones and Ross Barkley are ridiculous, if and when they leave Everton I'd love see them in a Barcelona side. There both suited for it.— Anthony Gerrard (@antgerrard86) January 6, 2016
However, when reports surfaced earlier this month about Barca potentially chasing the England international, Sport Witness claimed the Blaugrana’s current financial situation means they “simply can't afford to sign Stones.”
Which player would be the better signing for Barcelona?
The same is surely applicable to Ramsey, who Arsenal would command top dollar for. The Welshman may not be as dynamic as Alexis Sanchez or as intricate as Mesut Ozil, but he’s a player who makes the Gunners better and, as such, the north London club will not cash in unless they were to receive a stratospheric sum.
Everton showed in the summer they are willing to play hardball with their stars, as they rejected four bids from Chelsea for Stones. But Barcelona is a different matter entirely.
If the Catalan giants did somehow put together a package in line with the Toffees’ valuation of the player, the Merseysiders would be unlikely to stand in their player’s way.