John Stones showing signs of emulating Barcelona's Gerard Pique

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The two central defenders come from worlds apart, but could John Stones, the boy from Barnsley, be England's very own Gerard Pique?

The latter Spaniard was born into a Catalan family and from the outset had the claret and blue of Barcelona running through his veins, given his grandfather, Amador Bernabeu, was once a vice-president at the Camp Nou.

From a young age it seemed Pique had no choice - if football were to be his path, Barcelona was to be his team.


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The centre-back began his football career like so many others from Catalan - Barcelona’s La Masia. Renowned for its ability to mould magnificent young talents into global superstars, La Masia has produced some of football's greatest talents, from Andres Iniesta to Lionel Messi.

The academy, focused on teaching its players a style of football based upon technique, possession and tactical awareness, helped train Pique into the defender is he today. Unlike the usual stereotype of a centre-back, especially in England, Pique is a technically gifted player.

A man that took notice of this young talent was Manchester United's Sir Alex Ferguson, so much so that the Scot signed Pique from Barcelona in 2004. After four years at the club, during which time he won the Premier League and Champions League yet played so little, the Spaniard returned home and fast established himself as one of the best and most successful defenders of the modern era.

Between 2008 and 2015, Pique and his Barcelona teammates won La Liga five times and the Champions League on three occasions, along with a host of Copa Del Rey and Supercopa de Espana titles.

And such was the influence Pique held during such success, he was named in the FIFA Team of the Year three years in a row, from 2010 to 2012, winning the World Cup with Spain prior to his first inclusion in the star-studded team.

So, how can Stones, the man - or boy - who started his career at low-league Barnsley, ever begin to be compared to Barcelona legend?

Well, easier than you may think. The Englishman is undoubtedly still a raw young talent and has plenty to learn about the game, yet his composure on the ball and inclination to Cruyff turn away from pressure and carry the ball out of defence suggests he possesses similar traits to Pique.

Stones began his career at League One side Barnsley, where he became recognised for his unerring confidence on the ball for a centre-back. Having come through the ranks at Oakwell, the youngster was signed by David Moyes' Everton in January 2013 for £3 million at just 18-years-old.

The departure of Moyes that summer, followed by the appointment of Roberto Martinez, came only as a positive for Stones. Known for his philosophy of possession-based football and defending from the front, Martinez's style proved largely beneficial to the youngster's development.

The Spaniard's approach hasn't quite worked to the same extent as previous seasons this campaign, with the Toffees languishing in 11th, yet few can argue his focus on ball retention, fast-flowing football and power has laid an excellent foundation on which to build a successful team.

Stones has flourished under this set up and his weekly exploits in the Premier League haven't gone unnoticed in world football. The 21-year-old has been compared to the likes of Rio Ferdinand for his ability when in possession, with the Red Devils legend one of many to recently praise and defend Everton's starlet.

He said: "He's the best ball-playing centre-half about at the moment. Give the kid a chance to play and to grow and to make mistakes.

"He's going to make mistakes as a young kid. Allow him to do that, because potentially he could go and play for Barcelona, Real Madrid, the top clubs in this country and be the captain of England, and you can build a team around this kind of kid."

This ability to play, as well as defend, combined with his age has stolen the attention of Europe's elite. The most direct attempt to prise Stones away from Goodison Park came from Chelsea, who tried desperately, yet failed, to bring the England international to Stamford Bridge last summer.

Since then, Stones has been linked with the likes of United, Barcelona and, most recently, Real Madrid.

It's clear to see Stones is not your average centre-back and possesses skill greatly under-appreciated in English football. The youngster still has a lot to learn, but under the tutelage of manager Martinez, he could set a new trend for English defenders.

And it seems Pique rates Stones just as highly, after including him in his World XI last year over the likes of Bayern Munich's David Alaba and countryman Sergio Ramos, suggesting that even the Spaniard recognises the similarities between himself and England's newest star.

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