Chelsea are reportedly readying an improved bid to sign Everton centre-back John Stones and will offer one of their young stars on loan in return. It's unlikely to be Charly Musonda moving to Goodison Park, though, after he outlined his intention to stay at Real Betis.
According to the Mirror's Tom Hopkinson, the Blues are willing to send one of their up-and-coming gems to Merseyside on temporary terms in return for Stones' signature, along with a substantial transfer fee.
It's mentioned in the report that Chelsea publicly hounded Everton for Stones' services last summer, making three bids for the player—the highest worth £30 million—though each was rejected.
Stones may be seen to have some interest in the switch considering he handed in a transfer request following the summer pursuit, as Hopkinson noted, but it's added inbound Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola wants the player at the Etihad Stadium.
The Citizens are able to duel with just about any club in the world when it comes to spending, and the arrival of Guardiola at their helm this summer will undoubtedly give the club a greater appeal in the transfer market.
Stones is being targeted as a replacement for Chelsea captain John Terry, whose contract at Stamford Bridge expires this summer. However, ex-Liverpool defender Alan Hansen told Daily Mail columnist Jamie Redknapp Barcelona would be an ideal fit for the 21-year-old (h/t Juan Jimenez of Spanish newspaper AS):
From what I’ve seen, Stones has all the attributes to play for Barcelona, but when you read about clubs being prepared to spend £50 million on him, at this stage you are still paying for potential.
In a footballing sense, and this is purely a footballing consideration, Barcelona would be perfect for him. The way he plays, and the way they play, would be the ideal match-up. Yes, they have some unbelievable talents higher up the pitch, but they haven't lost a football match for five months because they don't give many goals away.
Chelsea would likely be in the market for a defender even if Terry weren't set to depart, with Kurt Zouma recently picking up a serious knee injury that's forced longtime full-back Branislav Ivanovic to return to his roots at centre-back.
Stones has responded well to early criticism following a controversial summer, and blogger Liam Canning has rated him above prospective Chelsea team-mate Gary Cahill:
Liam Canning @LiamPaulCanning
Would be disgraceful if Roy Hodgson picked Gary Cahill over one of Chris Smalling or John Stones. Dreadful season.2016-3-12 20:43:59
Musonda is already part of the Stamford Bridge collective, yet he isn't in any rush to pull on the blue of his parent club after voicing his desire to return to Real Betis on loan next season.
The attacking midfielder has scored one goal in six outings for Betis since moving to the club on a six-month loan deal in January. Speaking to Spanish broadcaster Canal Sur, Musonda lifted the lid on his future plans (h/t Daily Star's Chisanga Malata):
I want to stay at Betis. It’s in my head now, but next year I don’t know what will happen. I’m happy here, the Beticos want me. You never know about the future, but it’s possible that I can stay. It’s better to play here than in Chelsea’s second team.
My favourite clubs are from here, from Spain. Since I was young I liked Barcelona and Real Madrid. I learned Spanish so I could come here. I play for Betis and I am happy.
It would appear first-team minutes gain seniority over representing Chelsea for Musonda, and while one can't blame the 19-year-old for seeking prominence, Chelsea may wish to keep the player next term.
Belgium under-21 international Musonda is a fan favourite in Seville, but his progress in La Liga is also bound to have caught the attention of his parent club, who could consider offering him his chance in west London.