Manchester City and Chelsea appear to be facing serious competition from La Liga's biggest clubs in the race to sign Everton star John Stones.
The centre-back was the subject of intense interest from Chelsea last summer with the Toffees finding the resolve to reject a £38million transfer bid from Stamford Bridge as well as a transfer request from the player.
Despite making his intentions to quit Goodison Park clear, Stones has continued to progress this season with his reputation and value increasing further. He will cost any suitor as much as £50m in the summer, but he will have some of the game's richest clubs after him.
SUBMIT AN ARTICLE
Apply to become a GMS writer by signing up and submitting a 250 word test article: http://gms.to/haveyoursay5
Both Real Madrid and Barcelona are, according to the Daily Mail, interested in bringing the 21-year-old to Spain. They are, apart from Bayern Munich, the only clubs outside the Premier League capable of meeting Everton's demands and then convincing Stones to join.
Rafa Benitez originally drew Real Madrid's attention towards the England international, after he asked Florentino Perez to explore the possibility of signing him in the summer. Benitez is gone, but subsequent scouting reports on Stones means interest from the Bernabeu club has remained.
Barcelona's interest was made clear after Gerard Pique named Stones in his World XI selection in November last year. Shoving the likes of Thiago Silva and Jerome Boateng to one side, it seemed to be a clear message to Stones that he is wanted at the Nou Camp.
But both Real Madrid and Barcelona could struggle to compete with Premier League clubs. Manchester City have already shown a willingness to pay a premium for top English talent while Chelsea will be looking to invest heavily on the back of a terrible season.
They will, however, have one advantage. Everton would be keen to see Stones leave the Premier League altogether if they sell him and may be open to a smaller offer from La Liga. Roberto Martinez is aware that selling Stones will only further widen the gap between his team and the supposed 'elite' clubs.