Everton defender John Stones has emerged a £40 million target for Spanish giants Real Madrid, after being shortlisted by former boss Rafael Benitez.
The Spaniard expressed his intentions to sign Stones to the Madrid hierarchy earlier in the campaign and Los Blancos are expected to make a move for one of the Premier League's hottest talents, according to the Daily Mail.
Any transfer for Stones is likely to come in the summer, but the England international is one of Europe’s most highly-rated youngsters and has an array of suitors vying to secure his signature.
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Chelsea, Manchester United and Barcelona have all expressed interest in the 21-year-old, but new Real manager Zinedine Zidane will be sure to join the bidding war should any initial move be made for the Everton centre-back.
Benitez had originally earmarked Stones as a long-term replacement for Pepe, who is approaching his 33rd birthday and has often upset previous Madrid managers for his ill-discipline.
The idea appears to be to pair the youngster with fellow starlet Raphael Varane, also regarded as one of Europe's best young centre-backs.
Everton's asking price for Stones is unlikely to prove an obstacle for Madrid given their vast riches and desire to dethrone Barcelona as Spain's - and Europe's - best side, with the Catalonians reportedly unable to match the Englishman's valuation.
Any transfer for Stones would see former club Barnsley receive 15% of the fee after selling him to the Toffees in a deal worth £3 million.