Arsenal have been named as the latest club interested in signing Everton centre-back John Stones, as reported by the Sunday Mirror.
The 21-year-old has emerged as one of Europe's finest young defenders at Goodison Park and was courted by Chelsea in the summer. Jose Mourinho launched a very public pursuit of Stones, openly admitting his club had made several bids in an attempt to unsettle him.
Everton managed to resist their attempts, but it seems inevitable that Stones will eventually leave for one of the so-called elite Premier League clubs. The Gunners want to be at the front of the queue when he is eventually put up for sale.
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And Arsene Wenger is not put off by the massive figures likely to be involved. Indeed, Everton rejected a £30million offer from Chelsea in the summer with the desired fee likely to be much closer to the £40m mark.
Arsenal have the money to spend. They proved that in 2013 with the £42.4m purchase of Mesut Ozil and the £35m deal for Alexis Sanchez the very next year. Wenger decided against signing an outfield player last summer, but there is still significant money available to the Frenchman.
As he has always reiterated, Wenger will only sign off in a big transfer deal if he believes he has found an exceptional talent. Stones' form over the past two seasons has convinced the Arsenal manager of his quality and the chequebook is ready.
Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny are both on the wrong side of 30 and Gabriel Paulista is still yet to fully adapt to the English game after his arrival from Villarreal in January.
Calum Chambers is another exciting prospect, but Wenger has said in the past that the former Southampton man could eventually become a defensive midfielder. As a result, Arsenal need a centre-back capable of replacing established international stars.