Stones has chance to stake City claim ahead of crunch talks with Guardi­ola

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport Football - By James Ducker

Pep Guardi­ola says he will sit down with John Stones at the end of the sea­son to dis­cuss the Eng­land de­fender’s fu­ture at Manch­ester City.

The City man­ager will hand Stones his first start for more than four months against New­cas­tle United tonight.

Guardi­ola said in 2018 that as long as he was at City, “Stones will be with us”, but the 26-year-old could be one of the ca­su­al­ties of a sum­mer re­build as the man­ager tar­gets a new centre-half to help ad­dress the club’s de­fen­sive is­sues.

Stones has two years left on the £180,000-a-week, six-year con­tract he signed when he joined from Ever­ton for £50mil­lion in 2016 and has been linked with a re­turn to the Mersey­side club. Arse­nal and Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur are also likely to be in the mar­ket for a cen­tral de­fender in the trans­fer win­dow.

Since play­ing a key role in City’s first Pre­mier League ti­tle win un­der Guardi­ola, Stones’s ca­reer has been blighted by in­jury, poor form and off-field is­sues and the man­ager ad­mit­ted the de­fender’s con­fi­dence had suf­fered as a con­se­quence, as he pre­pares to hold talks with him over his fu­ture.

Stones has started just 14 matches all sea­son and fallen to fifth in the peck­ing or­der, be­hind Aymeric La­porte, Eric Gar­cia, Fer­nand­inho and Ni­co­las Ota­mendi, who could also be sold this sum­mer. Kali­dou Koulibaly, of Napoli, Bournemout­h centre-half Nathan Ake, Ruben Dias, of Ben­fica, and Vil­lar­real’s Pau Torres are among the cen­tre­halves City have scouted.

“On the trans­fer mar­ket we speak at the end of the sea­son,” said Guardi­ola, who con­firmed Stones would start against New­cas­tle. “I’ve said many times I’m more than de­lighted with John as a per­son, as a pro, ev­ery­thing. We’ll speak at the end of the sea­son.

“Some­times my wish is not the wish of the play­ers, or the wish of the sit­u­a­tion for the club. If we have to change, we’ll talk to them. He’s a young player and we want him to be con­sis­tent, to train and re­cover.

“There are play­ers who can play ev­ery three days for 11 months, oth­ers who strug­gle more and we try to find the key to them play­ing ev­ery three days. What we want is for him to come back and play and to be able to play two, three, four months with no in­juries. It’s dif­fi­cult for all of us. “The qual­ity of John is there, I never doubted it for one sec­ond, it’s just when you don’t play, you are ro­tated and in­jured again. He must play for him­self and fo­cus.” Mean­while, Guardi­ola has warned his squad they can for­get about win­ning the FA Cup and Cham­pi­ons League un­less they re­dis­cover their killer in­stinct af­ter fall­ing to a ninth league de­feat of the cam­paign on Sun­day, 1-0 against Southamp­ton. City had 26 shots and Guardi­ola be­lieves there have been too many games where his side have not been clin­i­cal enough and pun­ished for their profli­gacy.

“If we can play like we play and we are con­sis­tent in both boxes, we will have a big chance to go through to the fi­nal of the FA Cup and the quar­ter-fi­nals of the Cham­pi­ons League,” he said. “But if it hap­pens like it did against Southamp­ton, Tot­ten­ham at home and away and Nor­wich away, we will be out [of the Cup] and Arse­nal will be in the fi­nal and Madrid will go through [from their Cham­pi­ons League last16 tie].”

Cri­sis of con­fi­dence: John Stones has made mis­takes

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.