Tottenham have been dealt a blow in their alleged pursuit of Everton youngster John Stones after the Merseyside club rejected an approach for the Chelsea and Arsenal target.
According to The Sun, the 20-year-old defender is high on Spurs' summer wishlist following an impressive breakthrough season at Goodison Park in 2013/14.
Stones excelled under the guidance of Roberto Martinez after joining the Toffees from Championship side Barnsley in a £3 million deal January 2013.
His fine form was rewarded with international recognition, and a place on England's standby list for the World Cup in Brazil this summer.
Spurs search continues
Mauricio Pochettino is on the lookout for defensive reinforcements at White Hart Lane, and identified the versatile centre-back - who can also operate at right-back - for a potential move to north London.
With Kyle Walker and Kyle Naughton both still on the books at Tottenham, it's presumed that Stones would be brought in as a central defensive option; the position he is expected to occupy in the long-term future.
The Daily Mail reported in April that Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho are both also admirers of the Everton man, and might look to lure him to Stamford Bridge or the Emirates if presented with an opportunity at the end of the season.
While Arsenal and Chelsea's alleged interest seems to have waned, Tottenham did make a formal enquiry about the possibility of signing Stones ahead of the new campaign.
But, according to an insider close to Everton, Pochettino was knocked back immediately and told there was no chance of a deal happening this summer.
"It was a very brief conversation because John is not for sale - not to Spurs, not to anyone," explained the Sun source.
The England U21 star boasts great composure on the ball and likes to bring it out of defence, and also shows a clear understanding and good reading of the game for a player so early in his career.
Stones is expected to be a Three Lions regular in years to come, and will benefit from playing regularly in the Premier League with Everton rather than pushing for another transfer so soon.
Along with Ross Barkley, Toffees boss Martinez will be entrusted with continuing to develop these burgeoning young talents, and will look to help them continue progressing at Goodison Park next season.